Six-time Grammy winner Etta James, whose iconic “At Last” was one of 22 hits the blues and R&B singer scored between 1955 and 1973, has died at age 73. She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and also suffered from dementia and hepatitis.
The earthy vocalist, who was born Jamesetta Hawkins and also known as “Miss Peaches,” reached No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1955 with her first single, “The Wallflower (Roll With Me, Henry),” while still a teen-ager. She joined Chess Records in 1960 and delivered a steady string of R&B and crossover pop hits, featuring lush orchestral arrangements.
Her version of “At Last”—originally a 1942 hit for Glenn Miller—was issued in 1961, reaching No. 2 at R&B. In 1967, a comeback edged James closer to rock and heart-wrenching soul. Over her career, she mastered numerous styles, also including jazz and gospel.
In the decades since its release, “At Last” became James’ signature and a favorite at weddings. In 2009, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama danced to the song at all 10 inaugural balls; while it has been covered by more than 100 artists, from Nat King Cole, Brenda Lee, Judy Garland and Doris Day to Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Stevie Nicks and perhaps most notably, Celine Dion.
In addition to her Grammys, James earned 17 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. Rolling Stone ranked James No. 22 on its list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. *