Three-time Grammy winner singer Etta James, a pioneer of 1950s rhythm-and-blues and rock music known for her show-stopping hit "At Last," died on Friday from complications of leukemia, age 73.
James died at a hospital in Riverside, California, east of Los Angeles, said her manager and friend of some 30 years, Lupe De Leon. She would have turned 74 on Wednesday.
"She passed away this morning. She was with her husband and her sons," said De Leon.
James was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago and had been in failing health for a number of years. Her live-in doctor said in December she was terminally ill with leukemia. James also suffered from diabetes, kidney problems and dementia and was hospitalized late in 2011 because she was struggling to breathe.
The R&B singer saw numerous ups-and-downs in her career and personal life. She struggled with obesity and heroin addiction, ran a hot-check scheme and had troubled relationships with men, including some gangsters. Her weight ballooned, and in 2003 she underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost more than 200 pounds.
Yet in the music industry, among fellow R&B artists and rock icons, James' own reputation grew into legend. With songs like "The Wallflower" and "Good Rockin' Daddy," the three-time Grammy winner was a key figure in the early days of rock 'n' roll, and her signature song, the 1961 ballad "At Last," proved her mastery of the blues.
She sang with a mixture of power and pain that led veteran musical producer Jerry Wexler to call her "the greatest of all modern blues singers ... the undisputed Earth Mother."
James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 but throughout her long career she diversified into mainstream blues, soul and R&B.
"Etta James is simply one of the best singers I've ever heard," singer-guitarist Bonnie Raitt wrote in Rolling Stone magazine. "... Etta is earthy and gritty, ribald and out-there in a way that few performers have the guts to be."
James' last album, "The Dreamer," was released in 2011. She spent the latter part of her life at home in California.
Here are some of her most memorable performances.