Etta James remembered as triumphant trailblazer

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Throughout the service, a portrait of James as a woman who beat the odds in pursuit of her dreams repeatedly emerged.

Etta is special to me and for me, because she represents the life, the triumphs, the tribulations of a lot of black women all over this world,” said U.S. Rep Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

“It does not matter who sang `At Last’ before or after Etta. It does not matter when it was sung, or where it was sung. `At Last’ was branded by Etta, the raunchy diva _ that’s her signature and we will always remember her.”

James won four Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement honor and was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. In her decades-long career, she became revered for her passionate, soulful singing voice.

She scored her first hit when she was just a teenager with the suggestive “Roll With Me, Henry,” which had to be changed to “The Wallflower” in order to get airplay. Her 1967 album, “Tell Mama,” became one of the most highly regarded soul albums of all time, a mix of rock and gospel music.

She rebounded from a heroin addiction to see her career surge after performing the national anthem at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She won her first Grammy Award a decade later, and two more in 2003 and 2004.

James is survived by her husband of 42 years, Artis Mills and two sons, Donto and Sametto James.

“Mom, I love you,” Donto James said during brief remarks. “When I get to the gates, can you please be there for me?”

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Follow Anthony McCartney at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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