Etta James Dies at 73

(

CNN)

-- Etta James, whose assertive, earthy voice lit up such hits as "The Wallflower" "Something's Got a Hold on Me" and the wedding favorite "At Last," has died, according to her longtime friend and manager, Lupe De Leon. She was 73 and had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2010.



James, who also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C, died at a hopsital in Riverside, California.



The powerhouse singer, known as "Miss Peaches," lived an eventful life. She first hit the charts as a teenager, taking "The Wallflower (Roll With Me, Henry)" -- an "answer record" to Hank Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie" -- to No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1955. She joined Chess Records in 1960 and had a string of R&B and pop hits, many with lush string arrangements. After a mid-decade fade, she re-emerged in 1967 with a more hard-edged, soulful sound.



Throughout her career, James overcame a heroin addiction, opened for the Rolling Stones, won six Grammys and was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Despite her ups and downs -- including a number of health problems -- she maintained an optimistic attitude.



"Most of the songs I sing, they have that blue feeling to it. They have that sorry feeling. And I don't know what I'm sorry about," she told CNN's Denise Quan in 2002. "I don't!"


Through it all, she was a spitfire beloved by contemporaries and young up-and-comers.



"Etta James is unmanageable, and I'm the closest thing she's ever had to a manager," Lupe DeLeon, her manager of 30-plus years, told CNN in admiration.



British songstress Adele named James as one of her favorite singers, along with Aretha Franklin.



"If you were to look up the word singer in the dictionary, you'd see their names," Adele said in an interview.


Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles to a teen mother and unknown father. (She suspected her father was the pool player Minnesota Fats.)

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