RIP

Etta James Songs to Help You Grieve the Death of a Legend

We would be fools without ears or hearts if we didn't take a minute to acknowledge the passing of Etta James today.


At 73, the Matriarch of the Blues endured many trials during her life, including an absent mother, an addiction to heroin, and more recently struggles with dementia and hepatitis C. It was leukemia that finally took her life.  

But what a voice! We've put together a little list of James' songs. You can listen to them and cry, get sassy, get the shivers, get all passionate, or do all of those at the same time.


Jamesette Hawkins was born in Los Angeles. Though little Jamesette, soon to be Etta, sang in the church choir, she was always fan of the bad girls. With her big platinum hair and pretty, pudgy face, it didn't matter if James was good or bad; she had all it takes to be a legend. 

Beyond being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, and the Grammy Hall of Fame twice, James was the winner of six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards. That's a mouthful. The something that had a hold on her was talent. 


A younger audience might remember "I'd Rather Go Blind" from the 2008 film Cadillac Records when Beyoncé Knowles portrayed James in this story about the rise of Chess Records. No offense, Beyoncé, but this is Etta's song to sing.  


Originally the B-side to "At Last!," James' "I Just Want to Make Love to You," first recorded by Muddy Rivers, would make a dead man dance. Used in a sexy, sort of unforgettable Diet Coke ad, the song was rereleased and popped up on the U.K. Singles Chart in 1996. 


James is most popular for singing her soulful rendition of "At Last," originally recorded by Glenn Miller and his orchestra. President Obama and the first lady danced to James' 1960 version at his inauguration. That's pretty good for a bad girl with a crazy pair of pipes from L.A. 

Rest in peace, Ms. James. 


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Liz has her master’s degree in religion from Florida State University. She has since written for publications and outlets such as Miami New Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Ocean Drive, the Huffington Post, NBC Miami, Time Out Miami, Insomniac, the Daily Dot, and the Atlantic. Liz spent three years as New Times Broward-Palm Beach’s music editor, was the weekend news editor at Inverse, and is currently the managing editor at Tom Tom Magazine.
Contact: Liz Tracy