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Etta James Profile - Songs, Biography, and History

One of the R&B and blues world"s greatest divas, Etta James gave the genre a boost into the mainstream and helped develop the rock craze in the process with her 1965 hit "The Wallflower" (aka "Roll With Me, Henry"). Her signature song, 1961"s "At Last," is one of the most popular wedding soundtracks of all time.  James was known for her saucy and sometimes scandalous stage demeanor and served as a major influence on rough blues-rock singers such as Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, and Rod Stewart.

Jamesetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938, in Los Angeles, CA; died January 20, 2012, Riverside, CA

Etta Jame"s was born Jansetta Hawkins on January 25, 1938 in Los Angeles Califor" wild life began early on—she grew up in a single-mother household and was eventually expelled from her high school, by which time she"d already formed more than one doo-wop group with her schoolmates. Bandleader Johnny Otis, later famous for "Willie and the Hand Jive," had the group record a novelty song of sorts, an answer to Hank Ballard and the Midnighters" huge smash "Work With Me Annie." The female response record, dubbed "Roll With Me, Henry," was another smash, though it was changed to "Dance With Me, Henry," and, later, "The Wallflower," to disguise the frank sexual nature of the song.

The hits dried up after that, however, and Etta"s solo career was slowing until she signed with Chess Records in 1960.

It was there that the Chess brothers redesigned Etta as a torchy jazz-pop singer, leading to hits like "At Last" and "All I Could Do Was Cry." 1967"s "Tell Mama" was another hit that marked a fork in her career, steering her more towards gutbucket soul. Etta stayed with the Chess label until it folded in 1975, long after most artists had left, and moved with the times to a more rock-based approach like Tina Turner"s, becoming noted for covers of offbeat artists like Randy Newman and Prince.

Eventually she turned to a straight blues approach, and since 1989 has reigned as one of the singular stars on that scene, loaded with Grammy and Blues