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Soul legend Etta James dies at 73

Etta James, one of the most famous names in American soul and blues, has died at the age of 73. James, who was suffering from leukaemia and kidney disease, died in hospital in Riverside, California.

James had been at the forefront of the soul scene since signing to Chess Records in 1960, although her career was blighted by early heroin addiction. Her recordings became classics of the genre, although she was not as well-known in the UK as in the USA.

Once she had shaken off her addiction, James became one of the most successful soul artists in the 1970s. Over the course of her career she released over 30 albums and won six Grammy awards.

Among her fans is Adele, who, in an Observer article, recalled seeing her live. "I just loved the way she looked, really – her curves and her catty eyes. There she was, at the age of 71, singing 'I want to ta ta you, baby' – almost groping herself, as if the meaning wasn't clear enough already. She just has so much attitude."

In the 2008 film Cadillac Records Beyonce was cast as James, and the actress was subsequently asked to perform James's famous hit At Last for President Barack Obama.

With a brilliant disregard for the customary Hollywood insincerity, James was scathing about the performance. "I can't stand Beyonce," she said. "She had no business up there singing my song that I've been singing forever."

Even if you are unfamiliar with her music, Etta James deserves to be revered for that quotation alone.

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