horizontal bar



horizontal bar



Etta James BackgroundEtta James Background
1996 San Francisco Blues Festival Photos1996 San Francisco Blues Festival Photos
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Etta JamesRock and Roll Hall of Fame: Etta James

horizontal bar

Etta James (born Jamesetta Hawkins; January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012)

Few female R&B stars enjoyed the kind of consistent acclaim Etta James received throughout a career that spanned six decades; the celebrated producer Jerry Wexler once called her "the greatest of all modern blues singers," and 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.

Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, California on January 25, 1938; her mother was just 14 years old at the time, and she never knew her father, though she would later say she had reason to believe he was the well-known pool hustler Minnesota Fats. James was raised by friends and relatives instead of her mother through most of her childhood, and it was while she was living with her grandparents that she began regularly attending a Baptist church. James' voice made her a natural for the choir, and despite her young age she became a soloist with the group, and appeared with them on local radio broadcasts. At the age of 12, after the death of her foster mother, James found herself living with her mother in San Francisco, and with little adult supervision, she began to slide into juvenile delinquency. But James' love of music was also growing stronger, and with a pair of friends she formed a singing group called the Creolettes. The girls attracted the attention of famed bandleader Johnny Otis, and when he heard their song "Roll with Me Henry" -- a racy answer song to Hank Ballard's infamous "Work with Me Annie" -- he arranged for them to sign with Modern Records, and the Creolettes cut the tune under the name the Peaches (the new handle coming from Etta's longtime nickname). "Roll with Me Henry," renamed "The Wallflower," became a hit in 1955, though Georgia Gibbs would score a bigger success with her cover version, much to Etta's dismay. After charting with a second R&B hit, "Good Rockin' Daddy," the Peaches broke up and James stepped out on her own.

James' solo career was a slow starter, and she spent several years cutting low-selling singles for Modern and touring small clubs until 1960, when Leonard Chess signed her to a new record deal. James would record for Chess Records and its subsidiary labels Argo and Checker into the late '70s and, working with producers Ralph Bass and Harvey Fuqua, she embraced a style that fused the passion of R&B with the polish of jazz, and scored a number of hits for the label, including "All I Could Do Was Cry," "My Dearest Darling," and "Trust in Me." While James was enjoying a career resurgence, her personal life was not faring as well; she began experimenting with drugs as a teenager, and by the time she was 21 she was a heroin addict, and as the '60s wore on she found it increasingly difficult to balance her habit with her career, especially as she clashed with her producers at Chess, fought to be paid her royalties, and dealt with a number of abusive romantic relationships. James' career went into a slump in the mid-'60s, but in 1967 she began recording with producer Rick Hall at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and, adopting a tougher, grittier style, she bounced back onto the R&B charts with the tunes "Tell Mama" and "I'd Rather Go Blind."

In the early '70s, James had fallen off the charts again, her addiction was raging, and she turned to petty crime to support her habit. She entered rehab on a court order in 1973, the same year she recorded a rock-oriented album, Only a Fool, with producer Gabriel Mekler. Through most of the '70s, a sober James got by touring small clubs and playing occasional blues festivals, and she recorded for Chess with limited success, despite the high quality of her work. In 1978, longtime fans the Rolling Stones paid homage to James by inviting her to open some shows for them on tour, and she signed with Warner Bros., cutting the album Deep in the Night with producer Jerry Wexler. While the album didn't sell well, it received enthusiastic reviews and reminded serious blues and R&B fans that James was still a force to be reckoned with. By her own account, James fell back into drug addiction after becoming involved with a man with a habit, and she went back to playing club dates when and where she could until she kicked again thanks to a stay at the Betty Ford Center in 1988. That same year, James signed with Island Records and cut a powerful comeback album, Seven Year Itch, produced by Barry Beckett of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The album sold respectably and James was determined to keep her career on track, playing frequent live shows and recording regularly, issuing Stickin' to My Guns in 1990 and The Right Time in 1992.

In 1994, a year after she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, James signed to the Private Music label, and recorded Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday, a tribute to the great vocalist she had long cited as a key influence; the album earned Etta her first Grammy Award. The relationship with Private Music proved simpatico, and between 1995 and 2003 James cut eight albums for the label, while also maintaining a busy touring schedule. In 2003, James published an autobiography, Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story, and in 2008 she was played onscreen by modern R&B diva Beyoncé Knowles in Cadillac Records, a film loosely based on the history of Chess Records. Knowles recorded a faithful cover of "At Last" for the film's soundtrack, and later performed the song at Barack Obama's 2009 inaugural ball; several days later, James made headlines when during a concert she said "I can't stand Beyoncé, she had no business up there singing my song that I've been singing forever." (Later the same week, James told The New York Times that the statement was meant to be a joke -- "I didn't really mean anything...even as a little child, I've always had that comedian kind of attitude" -- but she was saddened that she hadn't been invited to perform the song.)

In 2010, James was hospitalized with MRSA-related infections, and it was revealed that she had received treatment for dependence on painkillers and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, which her son claimed was the likely cause of her outbursts regarding Knowles. James released The Dreamer, for Verve Forecast in 2011. She claimed it was her final album of new material. Etta James was diagnosed with terminal leukemia later that year, and died on January 20, 2012 in Riverside, California at the age of 73.  -- by Mark Deming, All Music Guide


horizontal bar

1961The Second Time Around
1960At Last
1962Etta James
1962Sings for Lovers
1963Top Ten
1964Rocks the House [live]
1965The Queen of Soul
1966Call My Name
1968Tell Mama
1971Losers Weepers
1973Etta James [Chess]
1974Come a Little Closer
1978Etta Is Betta Than Evah
1978Deep in the Night
1981Good Rockin' Mama
1982Etta: Red Hot 'n' Live
1983Tuff Lover
1984Etta James: Her Greatest Hits
1986R&B Queen
1986Early Show, Vol. 1: Blues in the Night
1986Late Show, Vol. 2: Live at Maria's Memory Lane Supper Club
1987Etta James: R & B Dynamite
1988The Sweetest Peaches, Pt. 2
1988Etta James on Chess
1989The Gospel Soul of Etta James
1989Seven Year Itch
1990Stickin' to My Guns
1991Tell Mama, Vol. 1
1992Back in Blues
1992I'd Rather Go Blind
1992The Right Time
1994Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday
1994Live from San Francisco
1995Time After Time
1997Respect Yourself
1997Love's Been Rough on Me
1998Hickory Dickory Dock
1998Life, Love & The Blues
199812 Songs of Christmas
1999The Heart of a Woman


horizontal bar


1961 The Second Time Around

01. Don't Cry Baby
02. Fool That I Am
03. One for My Baby
04. In My Diary
05. Seven Day Fool
06. It's Too Soon to Know
07. Dream
08. I'll Dry My Tears
09. Plum Nuts
10. Don't Get Around Much Anymore

1960 At Last

01. Anything to Say You're Mine
02. My Dearest Darling
03. Trust in Me
04. Sunday Kind of Love
05. Tough Mary
06. I Just Want to Make Love to You
07. At Last
08. All I Could Do Was Cry
09. Stormy Weather
10. Girl of My Dreams
11. My Heart Cries ["Duet with Harvery Fuqua"]
12. Spoonful
13. It's a Crying Shame
14. If I Can't Have You

horizontal bar


1962 Etta James

1962 Sings for Lovers

1963 Top Ten

1964 Rocks the House [live]

01. Something's Got a Hold on Me
02. Baby, What You Want Me to Do
03. What'd I Say
04. Money (That's What I Want)
05. Seven Day Fool
06. Sweet Little Angel
07. Ooh Poo Pah Doo
08. Woke up This Morning
09. Ain't That Lovin' You Baby
10. All I Could Do Is Cry
11. I Just Want to Make Love to You

1965 The Queen of Soul

1966 Call My Name

1968 Tell Mama

horizontal bar


1970 Funk

1971 Losers Weepers

1973 Etta James [Chess]

01. Leave Your Hat On
02. Sail Away
03. Yesterday's Music
04. Lay Back Daddy
05. Just One More Day
06. All The Way Down
07. God's Song
08. Only A Fool
09. Down So Low

1973 Peaches

1974 Come a Little Closer

01. Out on the Street Again
02. Mama Told Me
03. You Give Me What I Want
04. Come a Little Closer
05. Let's Burn Down the Cornfield
06. Power Play
07. Feeling Uneasy
08. St. Louis Blues
09. Gonna Have Some Fun Tonight
10. Sookie, Sookie
11. Lovin' Arms
12. Out on the Street Again

horizontal bar


1978 Etta Is Betta Than Evah

1978 Deep in the Night

01. Laying Beside You
02. Piece of My Heart
03. Only Women Bleed
04. Take It to the Limit
05. Deep in the Night
06. Lovesick Blues
07. Strange Man
08. Sugar on the Floor
09. Sweet Touch of Love
10. Blind Girl

1980 Changes

1981 Masters

1981 Good Rockin' Mama

1982 Etta: Red Hot 'n' Live

1983 Tuff Lover

horizontal bar


1984 Etta James: Her Greatest Hits

01. Tell Mama
02. Something's Got A Hold On Me
03. Pushover
04. Only Time Will Tell
05. Stop The Wedding
06. Security
07. I'd Rather Go Blind
08. Trust In Me
09. Sunday Kind Of Love
10. My Dearest Darling
11. At Last
12. Waiting For Charlie To Come Home
13. All I Could Do Was Cry
14. Fool That I Am

1986 R&B Queen

1986 Early Show, Vol. 1: Blues in the Night

01. Kidney Stew
02. When My Baby Left Me
03. Railroad Porter Blues
04. Something's Got a Hold on Me
05. Medley: At Last/Trust Me/Sunday Kind of Love
06. I Just Wanna Make Love to You
07. Please Send Me Someone to Love
08. Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)
09. Misty

horizontal bar


1986 Late Show, Vol. 2: Live at Maria's Memory Lane Supper Club

01. Old Maid Boogie
02. Home Boy
03. Baby
04. Baby, What You Want Me to Do
05. Sweet Little Angel
06. I'd Rather Go Blind
07. Teach Me Tonight
08. Only Women Bleed
09. He's Got the Whole World in His Hands
10. Cleanhead Blues
11. Cherry Red

1987 Etta James: R & B Dynamite

01. W-O-M-A-N
02. Number One
03. I'm A Fool
04. Strange Things Happening
05. Hey Henry
06. I Hope You're satisfied
07. Good Rockin' Daddy
08. Sunshine Of Love
09. That's All
10. How Big A Fool
11. Market Place
12. Tough Lover
13. Do Something Crazy
14. Be My Lovey Dovey
15. Nobody Loves You (Like Me)
16. Hickory Dickory Dock
17. You Know What I Mean
18. Roll With Me Henry
19. Baby, Baby Every Night
20. We're In Love

horizontal bar


1988 The Sweetest Peaches, Pt. 2

1988 Etta James on Chess

1989 The Gospel Soul of Etta James

1989 Seven Year Itch

01. I Got the Will
02. Jump into My Fire
03. Shakey Ground
04. Come to Mama
05. Damn Your Eyes
06. Breakin' up Somebody's Home
07. Jealous Kind
08. How Strong Is a Woman
09. One Night

1990 Stickin' to My Guns

01. Whatever Gets You Through the Night
02. Love to Burn
03. Blues Don't Care
04. Your Good Thing (Is About to End)
05. Get Funky
06. Beware
07. Out of the Rain
08. Stolen Affection
09. Fool in Love
10. I've Got Dreams to Remember

horizontal bar


1991 Tell Mama, Vol. 1

1992 Back in Blues

1992 I'd Rather Go Blind

1992 The Right Time

01. I Sing the Blues
02. Love and Happiness
03. Evening of Love
04. Wet Match
05. You're Taking up Another Man's Place
06. Give It Up
07. Let It Rock
08. Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won't Do)
09. You've Got Me
10. Night Time Is the Right Time
11. Down Home Blues

1994 Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday

01. Don't Explain
02. You've Changed
03. Man I Love
04. I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You
05. Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)
06. Embraceable You
07. How Deep Is the Ocean?
08. (I'm Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over
09. Body and Soul
10. The Very Thought of You
11. I'll Be Seeing You

horizontal bar


1994 Live from San Francisco

01. I Just Want to Make Love to You
02. Take It to the Limit
03. Baby, What You Want Me to Do
04. Sugar on the Floor
05. Tell Mama
06. I'd Rather Go Blind
07. Otis Redding Medley
08. Born Blue

1995 Time After Time

01. Don't Go to Strangers
02. Teach Me Tonight
03. Love Is Here to Stay
04. Nearness of You
05. Time After Time
06. My Funny Valentine
07. Ev'rybody's Somebody's Fool
08. Fool That I Am
09. Willow Weep for Me
10. Imagination
11. Night and Day
12. Someone to Watch over Me

horizontal bar


1997 Respect Yourself

1997 Love's Been Rough on Me

01. Rock
02. Cry Like a Rainy Day
03. Love's Been Rough on Me
04. Love It or Leave It Alone
05. Don't Touch Me
06. Hold Me (Just a Little Longer Tonight)
07. If I Had Any Pride Left at All
08. I Can Give You Everything
09. I've Been Loving You Too Long
10. Done in the Dark

1998 Hickory Dickory Dock

01. Hickory Dickory Dock
02. W-O-M-A-N
03. My One and Only
04. I'm a Fool
05. Strange Things Happening
06. Hey Henry
07. I Hope You're Satisfied
08. Good Rockin' Daddy
09. Sunshine of Love
10. That's All
11. Call Me a Fool
12. Tears of Joy
13. Pick-Up
14. Market Place
15. Tough Lover
16. Doin' Something Crazy
17. Be My Lovey Dovey
18. Nobody Loves You (Like Me)
19. You Know What I Mean
20. Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry)
21. Every Night
22. We're in Love

horizontal bar


1998 Life, Love & The Blues

01. Born Under a Bad Sign
02. I Want to Ta-Ta You Baby
03. Here I Am (Come and Take Me)
04. Running Out of Lies
05. Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
06. Spoonful
07. Life, Love and the Blues
08. Hoochie Coochie Gal
09. Cheating in the Next Room
10. If You Want Me to Stay
11. Love You Save (May Be Your Own)
12. I'll Take Care of You

1998 12 Songs of Christmas

01. Winter Wonderland
02. Jingle Bells
03. This Time of Year
04. Merry Christmas, Baby
05. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
06. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
07. White Christmas
08. Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
09. Little Drummer Boy ["Carol of the Drum"]
10. Silent Night
11. Joy to the World
12. O Holy Night

horizontal bar


1999 The Heart of a Woman

01. You Don't Know What Love Is
02. Good Morning Heartache
03. My Old Flame
04. Say It Isn't So
05. At Last
06. Tenderly
07. I Only Have Eyes for You
08. I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)
09. You Go to My Head
10. Sunday Kind of Love
11. If It's the Last Thing I Do
12. Only Women Bleed

horizontal bar






E-MAIL JANICE graphics by YSM