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Etta James

Etta James (born Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938) is an American blues, soul, R&B, rock & roll and jazz singer and songwriter. She is the winner of four Grammys, seventeen Blues Music Awards, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (in 1993), the Blues Hall of Fame (in 2001), and the Grammy Hall of Fame (in both 1999 and 2008). Having her biggest success as a blues and R&B singer in the 1950s and 60s, she is best known for her 1961 ballad "At Last", classified as a "timeless classic"[citation needed] and which has featured in many movies and television commercials. Biography [edit] Early life and career Jamesetta was born in Los Angeles, California to an unmarried 14-year-old African-American mother, Dorothy Hawkins. According to Etta, her mother claimed that her father was the white Rudolph "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone, and that they received financial support from him on the condition that they keep his paternity a secret. This seems unlikely, though it has not been definitively disproved. Etta was born in Los Angeles in 1938. At the time, Wanderone was known to be managing a pool hall in Washington, D.C. and had not yet become known to be the cross-country traveller he later became. She received her first professional vocal training at the age of five years old from James Earle Hines, musical director of the Echoes of Eden choir at St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Etta's family moved to San Francisco in 1950 and she teamed up with two other girls to form a Doo-wop singing group. When the girls were fourteen, band leader Johnny Otis had them audition. They sang an answer to Hank Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie" called "Roll With Me Henry." Otis particularly liked the song, and against her mother's wishes, James and the trio went to Los Angeles to record the song in 1954. The song was recorded under the label Modern Records. By this time, the trio renamed the song "The Wallflower (Dance with Me, Henry)" and released it in 1955. James named her vocal group The Peaches. Richard Berry, a Los Angeles Doo Wop luminary is featured on some of their records. [edit] Success There are at least two versions of how Johnny Otis discovered Etta James. Otis' version is that she came to his hotel room after one of his performances in San Francisco and persuaded him to audition her. Another frequently told story is that Otis spotted her performing in an L.A. nightclub with The Peaches and, having conceived the answer song to Hank Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie," arranged with the Bihari brothers for Modern Records to record "The Wallflower" with Etta. "The Wallflower" reached number two on the rhythm and blues charts in February 1955 but was undercut in the wider market by a rushed-out cover version by Georgia Gibbs on Mercury Records; in fact, the very first time Gibbs was recorded in studio, they used the first take recorded and it became number one on the top 100 songs nationally. The song's royalties were divided between Hank Ballard, Etta James and Johnny Otis, and its huge success attracted the attention of the R&B world, resulting in James going on tour with Little Richard. On the tour, though, according to James, she witnessed and experienced situations to which minors are not usually privy; and she allegedly acquired a drug habit. Today Etta has a troublesome personality which may have resulted from her past habits. [1] [edit] Career in the 50s "The Wallflower" was a #1 hit on the R&B charts of 1955. The song was later a hit in the white market for Georgia Gibbs, re-written as "Dance with Me, Henry". Soon after the song's success, The Peaches and Etta parted company, but this did not halt her career. Etta continued to record and release albums throughout much of the decade, and enjoyed more success. Her follow-up, "Good Rockin' Daddy" became another fifties hit. Other songs however, such as "Tough Lover" and "W-O-M-A-N" failed to gain any significant success. Etta toured with Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Otis Redding in the fifties and has cited Watson as the most significant influence on her style. At age 21, Etta was battling with a heroin addiction. She eventually went to rehab in 1973. [edit] The Chess Years in the 60s In 1960, Etta signed a recording contract with Chess Records. She would have the biggest success of her career from this recording label, recording her biggest and most memorable hits. This recording company went into high gear with James, releasing many duets with her then boyfriend, the married Harvey Fuqua, who was then the lead singer of the Moonglows. One of her duets with Fuqua, called "If I Can't Have You", became a hit on the R&B charts in 1960. As a solo artist however, she had more enduring success. One of her first singles released by Chess in 1960 was called "All I Could Do Was Cry". This blues number became a big hit on the R&B charts in 1960. James' sassy vibe added a significant touch of personality to the song. Leonard Chess, one of the founders of Chess Records, helped James along the way. He saw the potential for James to go into a more Pop-oriented direction. Therefore, James started recording more pop tunes for the label. The year 1961 became a year of great change for James. In 1961 came the release of one of her first pop-oriented tunes called "At Last". The song became a big hit in 1961, reaching #2 on the R&B charts. The song even went as far as #22 on the Pop charts that year, proving that the Pop crossover direction was indeed becoming successful for her. Although it may have turned out to be less of a hit than expected on the Pop charts, it still made the Top 30. The song became her signature song and the song most people remember her by.[2] Her career did not end there, though; other songs such as "Trust In Me" also became hits and the 1962 tune "Something's Got a Hold On Me" (recorded in the UK by Elkie Brooks) showed more of James' Gospel side, a genre she had sung since childhood. She had other big hits in the 1960s, but mainly on the R&B charts: the song "Pushover" in 1963 and "Stop the Wedding", "Fool That I Am" and "Don't Cry Baby", which were hits for her between 1961 and 1963. Her 1963 album 'Etta James Rocks the House', cut at Nashville's "New Era" club, also gave her career a boost. James then became one of the most successful R&B artists of the 1960s, having many more Top Ten and Top Twenty hit singles. She has been classified as one of the pioneers of the Blues, being acclaimed to the ranks of artists like B.B. King. Performing in Memphis, Tennessee, the city where blues started helped make her into a blues icon. She did not have much other success in terms of chart success between 1965 and 1967. However, in 1967, she released a single that would become a big hit for her again, giving her career a comeback. [edit] The Chess Years in the 70s, 80s and Onward In 1967, Etta released her next hit single, "Tell Mama", and it became a Top Ten hit on the R&B charts. After a dry period of no hits for almost four years, the song once more made James a household name. The follow-up, "Security", also proved to be successful and proved that Etta had staying power on the charts again. Whilst less success came for Etta after this hit, she was still on the charts regularly and, despite the death of Leonard Chess, stayed with the Chess label into 1975. Towards the end of the Chess years though, she went into more rock-based songs. Her career also did not stop once the Chess years were over. Etta recorded for numerous other labels and continued to release albums, like 1978's Deep In the Night on Atlantic Records. Despite a dry period during the early to mid 80s, Etta got back on track and began to record music again. She received accolades for her 1981 rendition of Randy Newman's "God's Song". Her 1988 album Seven Year Itch proved this comeback capability; The album showed more of her Soul side. In 1989, Etta recorded the song "Avenue D" with David A. Stewart of Eurythmics fame. The song was featured on the soundtrack to the Robert Wise film "Rooftops". She also performed with the Grateful Dead for two shows in 1982, demonstrating the diveristy of her admirers. Into the 1990s, she continued to record and perform. Her albums widely varied in styles and genres of music. Her 1992 album, 'The Right Time', was another Soul album that was produced by Elektra Records. The album was also upbeat. She also began to record more Jazz music, which became the subject for many of her 1990s albums. In 1998, she released a Christmas album called 'An Etta James Christmas'. To a 50s generation, Etta might be best known for 'Wallflower'; to the 60s blues band generation, she might be best known for 'I'd Rather Go Blind' or, for soul fans, 'Tell Mama'. To a younger generation, she is perhaps known for the Muddy Waters song "I Just Wanna Make Love to You", used in television commercials for Coca-Cola and for John Smith's bitter (beer). The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry and Foghat have also recorded the song. Etta's version was a surprise Top 10 UK hit in 1995. Drug-related and romantic problems interfered with her career, but Etta managed to maintain a career throughout the latter half of the 20th century.[3] Later in life, Etta struggled with obesity. She reached more than 400 pounds, experienced mobility and knee problems, and often needed a wheelchair. In 2003, Etta underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost over 200 pounds.[4] Etta was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993[5] and into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001. Her pioneering contribution to the genre has also been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 2003, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked her #62 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[6] She is still touring in 2008. Etta won three Grammys: best jazz vocal performance (for 'Mystery Lady' in 1994), Best Contemporary Blues album (for 'Let's Roll' in 2003) and Best Traditional Blues album (for 'Blues to the Bone' in 2004).[7] A new album was also released in 2006 called 'All the Way', released on RCA Records. Etta James performed at the top world jazz festivals in the world, such as the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1977, 1989, 1990, and 1993,[8] performed nine times at the legendary Monterey Jazz Festival, and the San Francisco Jazz Festival five times. [edit] Popular Culture In 2008, she will be portrayed by Beyonce Knowles in the movie Cadillac Records. Etta's hit song, 'At Last', was used in a movie trailer to help promote Disney Pixar's comedy romance film, WALL-E. [edit] Selective awards and recognitions [edit] Grammy history Etta James Grammy Award History Year Category Title Genre Label Result 2008 Grammy Hall of Fame "The Wallflower" (aka "Roll With Me Henry") R&B Argo (1961) Inducted[9] 2004 Best Traditional Blues Album Blues To The Bone Blues RCA Victor Winner 2003 Best Contemporary Blues Album Let's Roll Blues Private Music Winner 2002 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner 1999 Grammy Hall of Fame "At Last" R&B Argo (1961) Inducted[10] 1994 Best Jazz Vocal Performance Mystery Lady (Songs of Billie Holiday) Jazz Private Music Winner [edit] The Blues Foundation Awards Etta James: Blues Music Awards[11] Year Category Title Result 2007 Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year Winner 2006 Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year Winner 2004 Soul/Blues Album of the Year Let's Roll Winner 2004 Soul/Blues-Female Artist of the Year Winner 2003 Soul/Blues Album of the Year Burnin' Down The House Winner 2003 Soul/Blues-Female Artist of the Year Winner 2002 Soul/Blues-Female Artist of the Year Winner 2001 Blues Hall of Fame Inducted 2001 Soul/Blues-Female Artist of the Year Winner 2000 Soul/Blues Female Artist of the Year Winner 1999 Soul/Blues Album of the Year Life, Love, & The Blues Winner 1999 Soul/Blues Female Artist of the Year Winner 1996 Soul/Blues - Female Artist of the Year Winner 1995 Contemporary Blues-Female Artist of the Year Winner 1994 Female Blues Vocalist of the Year Winner 1994 Soul/Blues Female Artist of the Year Winner 1992 Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year Winner 1989 Contemporary Blues Female Artist Winner [edit] Other awards Etta James Award History Year Company Category Result 2006 Billboard[12] R&B Founders Award Winner 2003 Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Hollywood Walk of Fame Star at 7080 Hollywood Blvd. 2003 Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)[13] Lifetime Achievement Award Winner 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inducted 1990 NAACP NAACP Image Award Winner 1989 Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award Winner [edit] Discography Chart figures from Billboard magazine. As Billboard did not publish an R&B chart in 1964, for this year only, R&B chart figures are from Cashbox. [edit] Singles Year Single U.S. R&B U.S. Album 1955 "The Wallflower (Dance with Me, Henry)" #1 - Good Rockin' Mama 1955 "Good Rockin' Daddy" #6 - Good Rockin' Mama 1960 "All I Could Do Was Cry" #2 #33 At Last! 1960 "If I Can't Have You" (with Harvey Fuqua) #6 #52 At Last! 1960 "My Dearest Darling" #5 #34 At Last! 1960 "Spoonful" (with Harvey Fuqua) #12 #78 At Last! 1961 "At Last" #2 #47 At Last! 1961 "Trust In Me" #4 #30 At Last! 1961 "A Sunday Kind of Love" At Last! 1961 "Fool That I Am" #14 #50 The Second Time Around 1961 "Don't Cry Baby" #6 #39 The Second Time Around 1961 "Dream" - #55 The Second Time Around 1961 "It's Too Soon to Know" - #54 The Second Time Around 1961 "Seven Day Fool" - #95 The Second Time Around 1962 "Something's Got a Hold on Me" #4 #37 Etta James Rocks the House 1962 "Stop the Wedding" #6 #34 Her Greatest Sides 1962 "Next Door to the Blues" #13 #71 The Essential Etta James 1962 "Fools Rush In" - #87 1963 "Would It Make Any Difference To You" - #64 1963 "How Do You Talk To An Angel" - #109 1963 "Payback" - #78 The Chess Box 1963 "Pushover" #7 #25 Her Greatest Sides 1963 "Two Sides (To Every Story)" - #63 The Chess Box 1963 "I Worry Bout You" - #118 1964 "Baby What You Want Me to Do" #35 #82 Etta James Rocks the House 1964 "Loving You More Every Day" #7 #65 The Essential Etta James 1965 "Do I Make Myself Clear" - #96 1966 "In The Basement - Part 1" (with Sugar Pie DeSanto) #37 #97 The Essential Etta James 1967 "I Prefer You" #42 - The Essential Etta James 1967 "Tell Mama" #10 #23 Tell Mama 1968 "Security" #11 #35 Tell Mama 1968 "You Got It" - #113 1968 "I Got You Babe" #32 #69 Tell Mama: The Complete Musical Sessions 1969 "Almost Persuaded" #32 #79 The Essential Etta James 1970 "Losers Weepers - Part 1" #26 #94 The Essential Etta James 1972 "I Found A Love" #31 #108 The Chess Box 1973 "All the Way Down" #29 #101 The Essential Etta James 1974 "Leave Your Hat On" #76 - Etta Is Betta Than Evah 1974 "Out on the Street, Again" #84 - Come a Little Closer 1976 "Jump Into Love" #92 - Etta is Betta Than Evah 1978 "Piece of My Heart" #93 - Deep In the Night [edit] Albums Year Album US R&B Albums US Pop Albums Top Blues Albums 1961 At Last! - #68 - 1961 The Second Time Around - - - 1963 Etta James Top Ten - #117 - 1964 Etta James Rocks the House - #96 - 1968 Tell Mama #21 #82 - 1973 Etta James #41 #154 - 1974 Come a Little Closer #47 - - 1978 Deep in the Night - - - 1988 Seven Year Itch - - - 1992 My Greatest Songs - - - 1992 The Right Time - - - 1994 Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday - - - 1 1995 Time After Time - - - 2 1997 Her Best - - #13 1997 Love's Been Rough on Me - - #6 1998 12 Songs of Christmas - - #5 1998 Life, Love and the Blues - - #3 1999 The Best of Etta James: 20th Century Masters - - #3 1999 The Heart of a Woman - - #4 2000 Matriarch of the Blues - - #2 2001 Blue Gardenia - - - 3 2001 Love Songs - - #2 2002 Burnin' Down the House - - #1 2003 Let's Roll - #195 #1 2004 Blues to the Bone - - #4 2006 The Definitive Collection - - #1 2006 All the Way #10 #33 #3 1: Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday reached #2 on the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart. 2: Time After Time reached #5 on Top Jazz Albums. 3: Blue Gardenia reached #1 on Top Jazz Albums. [edit] Footnotes ^ Shaw, Arnold (1978). Honkers and Shouters. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, p. 209-210, 293-294. ISBN 0-02-061740-2. ^ "Etta James biograph". Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2006-12-05. ^ "Etta James - inductee". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved on 2006-12-05. ^ "At last! Etta James loses 200 pounds and finds a new zest for life". Retrieved on 2006-12-05. ^ "Etta James - inductee". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved on 2006-12-05. ^ "The Immortals: The First Fifty". Rolling Stone Issue 946. Rolling Stone. ^ GRAMMY_Awards ^ Montreux Jazz Festival Database ^ 2008 Grammy Hall of Fame List ^ Grammy Hall of Fame Induction ^ The Blues Foundation Database ^ Billboard Honors Etta James ^ Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) [edit] See also Monterey Jazz Festival San Francisco Jazz Festival Chicago Blues Festival [edit] External links Official website Etta James at Allmusic Etta James at the Internet Movie Database Discography Etta James by Bonnie Raitt Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etta_James" Categories: American blues singers | American female singers | American jazz singers | Classic female blues singers | Contraltos | American rhythm and blues singers | American soul singers | Blues Hall of Fame inductees | Grammy Award winners | Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winners | Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees | Hollywood Walk of Fame | African American female singers | African American singer-songwriters | African American musicians | American memoirists | California musicians | People from Los Angeles, California | 1938 births | Living people Hidden categories: All articles with unsourced statements | Articles with unsourced statements since May 2008
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