A sad day for the blues: Legendary singer Etta James has passed away after a lengthy battle against dementia and leukemia.
James died early Friday at Riverside Community Hospital in California.
She was 73.
James was best known for her classic ballad “At Last.” After stepped out of the spotlight two years ago after her illnesses played a role in a viral rant she unleashed against singer Beyonce, who played the music great in the 2008 drama Cadillac Records.
Last month, her rep, Lupe De Leon, revealed that the singer was close to death:
“Etta has a terminal illness. She’s in the final stages of leukemia. She has also been diagnosed with dementia and Hepatitis C. She’s in a home right now and mostly sleeps. She is under the care of a live-in doctor from Riverside Community Hospital (in Riverside, Calif.) and two others who have placed her on oxygen. Her husband is with her 24 hours a day, and her sons visit regularly. We’re all very sad. We’re just waiting.”
Since March 2010, James has received round-the-clock medical care at her home in Riverside, where she moved in the late 1980s after living in Los Angeles.
Two days before Christmas, Etta was hospitalized and placed on a breathing machine after suffering shortness of breath. She was released a few weeks later.
The singer battled heroin addiction and obesity (a problem she later remedied with gastric bypass surgery) throughout much of her career. But she launched a comback in the 1970s. Her 1973 album was nominated for a Grammy and she signed with Warner Brothers Records in the late 1970s.
Etta delivered a rousing opening number during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. And her LP, Let’s Roll won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album in 2003. The following year, she won a Best Traditional Blues Album Grammy for Blues to the Bone.
James is survived by her two sons, Donto and Sametto James, and her husband of more than 35 years, Artis Mills.