Etta James (Born Jamesetta Hawkins January 25, 1938 in Los Angeles, California) is an American Blues, R&B and gospel singer. She is also known by the nickname Miss Peaches.
Born to an unmarried 14 year old mother (although she claims she believes that Minnesota Fats was her father), she received her first professional vocal training at the age of 5, from James Earle Hines, musical director of the Echoes of Eden choir at St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles.
Her family moved to San Francisco, California in 1950, and in 1952 the trio (the Creolettes) she had formed with two of her friends came to the attention of Johnny Otis. Otis reversed the syllables of her first name to give her her stage name and began recording her. Her first record, and her first R & B hit, was her own composition, "The Wallflower (Dance with Me, Henry)," an answer song to Hank Ballard's "Work with Me, Annie".
She recorded it in 1954 with the Otis band and Richard Berry, who sang the second vocal. The song was later a hit in the white market for Georgia Gibbs, re-written as "Dance with Me, Henry". She briefly recorded as Etta James & the Peaches, releasing several hits before signing to Chess Records in 1960.
James released several duets with Harvey Fuqua (of The Moonglows) that became major R&B hits, as well as her classic "At Last". The song, along with other early hits "All I Could Do Was Cry" and "Trust in Me," was included on her debut album At Last!.
In 1967, James recorded "Tell Mama" and its flip side "I'd Rather Go Blind", with "At Last" perhaps her most enduring songs (and her biggest pop single, at #23 on the Hot 100), in Muscle Shoals. Her singing is characterized by accomplished vocal technique and strong jazz influences. She won the Grammy for best jazz vocal in 1994 for her CD Mystery Lady, a collection of songs associated with Billie Holliday, and in 2004 won the Grammy for best contemporary blues album with Let's Roll. In 2003 she received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
To a younger generation, Etta is known for the Muddy Waters song "I Just Wanna Make Love To You", used in television commercials for Coca-Cola and for John Smith's bitter. The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry and Foghat have also recorded the song. Etta's version was a surprise Top 10 U.K. hit in 1995.
Drug-related and romantic problems interfered with her career, but James managed to maintain a career throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Later in life, James struggled with obesity. She reached more than 400 pounds, experienced mobility and knee problems, and often needed a wheelchair. In 2003, James underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost over 200 pounds.
James was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame. Her pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 2003 she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She still tours.