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Singer Etta James hospitalized but 'still fighting,' son says

Etta James, the legendary rhythm and blues singer suffering from end-stage leukemia and dementia, is under sedation while being treated at a Riverside hospital, her son saidEtta James, the legendary rhythm and blues singer suffering from end-stage leukemia and dementia, is under sedation while being treated at a Riverside hospital, her son said Saturday.

The 73-year-old performer, known for hits such as "At Last" and "Tell Mama," will remain hospitalized for at least several days before possibly returning to her Riverside home, Donto James said. If doctors can wean her from her sedation by Sunday, her family will try to hold a small Christmas celebration in her hospital room, he said.

"She always felt Christmastime was for the children," he said of his mother's seven grandchildren. "The biggest thing she ever wanted was for people to be with her, eat with her. That's what she wanted."

Donto James said he wanted to thank his mother's many fans for their expressions of concern and to tell them that "she is still fighting. That's the thing, my mother is still fighting."

He declined to confirm reports that the his mother has been on a breathing apparatus since Monday, but said she is being treated "for a couple of issues."

He and his stepfather, Artis Mills, had been embroiled in a legal dispute over her care and control of her $1-million estate. Under a recent agreement with Donto James and his brother, Sametto James, Mills will remain as conservator of her estate. But a Riverside County Superior Court judge on Monday released only $350,000 for her medical costs, less than the $500,000 that Mills had requested.

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-- Larry Gordon

Photo: Etta James performs at the Orange County Blues Festival in 1993. Credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times

 
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