The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Etta James:
An All-time Great

Jan 23, 2012

Legendary vocalist Etta James died January 20 of leukemia at age 73.

James was a tremendously versatile singer, gracefully mastering musical styles ranging from rhythm and blues, jazz, rock ’n’ roll, blues, and gospel. She could sing romantic jazz-influenced ballads like Sunday Kind of Love, Stormy Weather Keeps Rainin’ All the Time, and her signature tune, At Last. She soulfully rocked on songs like Tell Mama, Something’s Got a Hold on Me, Seven Day Fool, Tough Mary and her remake of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say. And she put her own stamp on blues classics like I Just Want to Make Love to You and her own I’d Rather Go Blind.

James’ career stretched from the mid-1950s to the early years of the new millennium. She was a major influence on many artists who came after her like Janis Joplin, Diana Ross, and the Rolling Stones and more recent artists like Amy Winehouse and Adele.

Though Etta James received some acclaim near the end of her life, like so many other black artists of her time the enormous impact she made on popular music remains shamefully unrecognized.