She died from complications from leukemia. "She died with her husband, Artis Mills and he sons by her side," Lupe De Leon, her longtime friend and manager tells the Associated Press today in a press release.
She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C. James died at a hospital in Riverside just shy of her birthday. She would have turned 74 Wednesday.
"This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world", De Leon said. "She was a true original who could sing it all- her music defied category." I worked with Etta for over 30 years. She was my friend and I will miss her always," Leon said.
Like so many, I was sad, but not surprised by her passing. I'd been following her progress in the hospital for weeks and felt she cheated death when she was recovered and made it home.
During those weeks in the hospital I stopped and reflected on "my connection" to Etta James. My best friend and singer Gina Brown on occasion served as her opening act. Gina's first concert with this blues legend was in San Francisco in 2006. Gina shared with me stories of this "feisty" older woman who rolled around the concert hall in her motorized scooter never bothering to say "please or thank you." Perhaps after more than 40 years in the industry she felt she earned the right.
Though the latter years of her life were shrouded in controversy with President Barak Obama, singer Beyonce', her classic hit "At Last" and the 2009 Inaugural Ball, I found it ironic as the light of Etta James started to "dim", Gina Brown's star in the blues industry really started to shine. Just this year alone Gina Brown has been nominated as "best new artist" in several blues categories for her two singles, "We're Having A Party" and "The G-Slide".
Over the years Etta James became outspoken and defied "any category" when it came to her music, (she moved with the greatest of ease from R & B to Blues) I'm sure Gina Brown joins me in "thanking her" for opening the door for her, Beyonce' and countless others!
Thank you Etta for your "classic music". I'd hoped you cheated after being administered final rites weeks ago, however today with your passing I'm reminded, "sometimes God gets us stronger for the journey!" Rest in Peace!