Blues singer Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins (1938Ė2012) on this day in Los Angeles, California, began singing in church at age five, and made her first record at 15.
"The music was thunder and joy," she wrote in her autobiography. "Lightning bolts of happiness and praise, foot-stomping, dance-shouting, good-feeling singing from the soul."
Known for the passionate ballad, At Last (1961), her incredible earthy voice had a huge range and her impact crossed generations.
James led a full and fragile life, with health problems and soaring achievements. She kicked heroin in the mid-70s and was the opening act for the Rolling Stones (1978). She called the group "the true Kings of Rock and Roll."
She said, "When you see me on stage, you think I'm cool, because to me, I'm cool." James won six Grammys, one for Lifetime Achievement (2003), and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1993).
"Raging" through a life of challenges, she claimed the rage kept her going through her crazy troubles and pain. Her music, she believed, was a celebration of life that transcended grief and created joy.
"A lot of people think the blues is depressing," she said, "but thatís not the blues Iím singing. When Iím singing blues, Iím singing life."
Push through, push hard, to survival.