Writer Paul Culshaw continues his tribute to the legendary Etta James.

Etta James dropped the Peaches in 1955. She went on to have another R&B hit with ‘Good Rockin’ Daddy’ but a follow up was hard to find.  In 1956 Etta released ‘Fools We Mortals Be’ but it was its flip side which truly was amazing-  a slice of loud as hell Rock ‘n’ Roll, called ‘Tough Lover’ which featured the superb Lee Allen on sax.

Her contract with Modern Records ended in 1960 and Etta signed to Chess. At this time she became involved in a relationship with singer Harvey Fuqua of The Moonglows vocal group. Only now did her career  soar as she topped the charts singing duets with Harvey on heart breaking ballads like ‘All I Could Do Was Cry’ or ‘At Last and Trust in Me’.

However, Etta could not possibly be tamed and released Gospel-charged songs such as ‘Something’s Got a Hold On Me’ in 1961 and ‘The Basement’ in 1966.  She stayed with Chess through all the Sixties and the early Seventies but her addiction to heroin caused problems both personally and professionally. Despite drug problems, Etta still made albums and in 1967 released the triumphant ‘Tell Me’.

In 1973 an album called simply ‘Etta James’ earned her a Grammy nomination and after Etta’s contract with Chess ended in 1977, she then signed up with Warner Brothers Records and appeared at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, Los Angeles in 1984. Etta continued to record and perform into the 1990s with her soulful but strong voice still shining brightly.

In 2003 Etta decided  to have gastric bypass surgery and lost 200 pounds.  This dramatic weight loss amazingly made a difference to her voice and she told Ebony Magazine “I can sing lower, higher and louder!”

In April 2009, 71 year old Etta James made her final TV appearance on  Dancing with the Stars and in May of the same year she received the Soul-Blues Female Artist of the Year award from  The Blues Foundation, the 9th time that Etta had won this award.

Etta James still toured but in 2010 had to cancel concert dates because of her failing health. She was suffering from dementia and leukaemia but even so Etta released her final album called ‘The Dreamer’ in 2011. Fans from around the world prayed for Etta James but a light went out in this world on the 20 January 2012 when Etta James died.

Etta James, love and more love to you. RIP honey.

Read part one of Paul’s tribute.

 

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