etta james

Very few R&B artists managed to recieve the kind of consistent reclaim Etta James recieved throughout a career over the time span of six decades.  Etta James was created in a era where music was constantly changing. Jazz and Blues became a wildfire across the United States. Many individuals saw music as a drug. Something that left people wanting more and would do anything to get; a motto many Artists during that time lived by. she recorded a number of enduring hits, including “At Last,” “Tell Mama,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” and “All I Could Do Was Cry.” At the same time, despite possessing one of the most powerful voices in music, James only belatedly gained the attention of the mainstream audience, appearing rarely on the pop charts despite scoring 30 R&B hits, and she lived a rough-and-tumble life that could have inspired a dozen soap operas, battling drug addiction and bad relationships while outrunning a variety of health and legal problems.

-diamond veney

After doing much research about Etta James. I learned how diverse she truly was , as well as her personal life and the effects it had on her singing and health. Many try to place artists in a box and they refuse to remove them from it. And it the artist was to come out of the box , it would effect the audience they reach. Etta made it clear she did not care for the box, that she does what she pleases and refuses to be simple.

-nyadirah stephens

     Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938, in Los Angeles, California, to a 14-year-old mother, Dorothy Hawkins. By the time Etta was the age of 5 she was known as a gospel prodigy.She gained fame by singing in her church choir and on the radio. Around the age of 12, she moved north to San Francisco, where she formed a trio and was soon working for Johnny Otis, the groups bandleader. Later, in 1954, after four years, she moved to Los Angeles to record “The Wallflower” the Otis band. She signed with Chicago’s Chess Records in 1960 and continued working with Chess throughout the 1960s and early ’70s. By the time she was 21 she Etta had become a heroin addict, eventually causing it to be difficult  to balance her habit with her career. Along with the negative changes of her behavior due to her drug addiction she also began clashing with her producers at Chess as well as fought to be paid her royalties, and having to deal with multiple abusive romantic relationships. Before,she began recording with producer Rick Hall at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1967, her career had taken a downfall .”Tell Mama” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” allowed her to jump back on to the R&B charts. Her album Etta James (1973) earned a Grammy nomination, with thanks to  combination of rock and funk sounds. Etta James was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993 and soon after signed a new recording contract with Private Records. “In 2003, James underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost over 200 pounds. The dramatic weight loss had an impact on her voice.”

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