Soul Queen Etta James Dies

Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member Etta James, one of the greatest soul singers in history, has died in Los Angeles at age 73.

A frequent visitor to the studios of Nashville, she was renowned for such searing performances as “The Wallflower” (1955), “All I Could Do Was Cry” (1960), “At Last” (1961), “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” (1962), “Stop the Wedding” (1962), “Pushover” (1963), “Tell Mama” (1967), “I’d Rather Go Blind” (1967) and “Security” (1968).

She was also notable as an interpreter of such country classics as “Almost Persuaded” (1969), “Loving Arms” (1975). “Sweet Memories” (1969), “When I Stop Dreaming” (1969), “Don’t Touch Me” (1997) and “Lovesick Blues” (1978).

In 1963, Etta James became one of the earliest major r&b stars to travel to Nashville to record. Her landmark Etta James Rocks the House LP was recorded at Music City’s New Era nightclub.

She returned to Nashville to record her 1988 comeback LP Seven Year Itch with producer Barry Beckett. Stickin’ to My Guns (1990), How Strong Is a Woman (1993) and Love’s Been Rough on Me (1997) were also recorded in Music City. Nashville’s Curb Records issued her 2002 two-volume Greatest Gospel Hits CDs.

During the second half of her career she recorded the works of such Nashville songwriters as Tracy Nelson, Dan Penn, Dobie Gray, Tony Joe White, Russell Smith, Kenny Greenberg, Greg Barnhill, Gretchen Peters, Troy Seals, Fred Knobloch, Steve Bogard, Mike Reid and Al Anderson.

She never knew her father, but believed him to be the legendary billiards player, Minnesota Fats, a longtime resident of Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel. He neither confirmed nor denied it when they met, saying that he couldn’t remember.

During her lifetime, Etta James won six Grammy Awards. She was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Recording Academy in 2003. She was also given a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003.

Her death today, January 20, was due to complications from leukemia, and she also suffered from hepatitis C and dementia. She is survived by her husband, two sons and numerous grandchildren.

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About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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