Thursday, February 2, 2012

Etta James--Aquarian

It seems fitting to begin the 2012 roll-out of famous female Aquarians with Etta James, who recently passed on.

Born in 1938, James started her career in the mid-1950s, and continued singing publicly until her death. Her early life was difficult: born to a mother who was only 14 at the time, Etta was more or less raised by others (often physically abusive), while her mother dated various men and was mostly absent. She never knew her father, or who he was. James started singing at around age 5, in her church. At 11, her mother moved her to San Francisco. Around 1953, she and her girl group were "discovered" by a musician, Johnny Otis. They recorded with him, as backups, and went on tour with Little Richard. In 1960 she signed with Chess Records, where she made her most famous recording, "At Last!" and had continued success across a variety of styles--R&B, rock, jazz, gospel, etc.--through 1978, when she left Chess.

The next ten years James struggled with addiction to drugs (mostly heroin) and alcohol. By 1990, her past hits had become standards, classics, and she was touring again, known now to a new generation as well.

From the 1990s on, James toured and sang at all the best known jazz festivals, as well as smaller events across the US and internationally. In 2008, Beyonce portrayed her in the film about Cadillac Records, and while some interaction between the two was friendly, some was not.

In her last years, James was diagnosed with dementia, leukemia, and bacterial infections. She struggled with drug addiction and bad relationships throughout the 1970s and 80s, but left two sons who performed with her during the last decade.

James is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, received 6 Grammy Awards, 12 nominations for Grammy Awards besides, a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and saw two songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. And more.

She was a powerful woman who overcame huge personal problems to leave us with a glorious legacy of song.

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