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Singer Etta James is dead at 73

January 20, 2012 |  9:02 am


Etta James, the legendary rhythm and blues singer, has died, her son said Friday.

She was 73 and had been in failing health for years. She died at a Southern California hospital about 8 a.m., her son Donto James said.

"Me and my brother were right there," he said.

PHOTOS:  Etta James | 1938-2012

Weeks ago, her doctor announced that James had chronic leukemia. Court records in the singer’s probate case show she also suffered from dementia and kidney failure. Her two sons had been in a court battle with their stepfather over conservatorship of her $1-million estate.

James spent time in a detox facility for addiction to painkillers and over-the-counter medications, Donto James told Reuters in 2010. And she had wrestled with complications since undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2002 to remedy a lifelong struggle with her weight.

VIDEO: Etta James dead at 73

James’ six-decade recording career began at the top of the R&B charts when her bawdy 1955 single “The Wallflower,” better known as “Roll With Me Henry,” quickly made her a national star.

She is best known for “At Last,” the powerhouse ballad that became a hit in 1961 and which has been enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame. She also is inextricably connected with  “I’d Rather Go Blind,” which conveys the desperation of a woman who prefers losing her sight to seeing her man with someone else.

A full obituary will be published soon at www.latimes.com/news/obituaries.


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Photo: Etta James performs at L.A.'s Cocoanut Grove nightclub in 1976. Credit: File photo