Etta James

The bedridden blues icon is too sick to speak up as her son and husband battle over her estate in court. Christine Pelisek reports on the sordid drama.

Frank Driggs Collection / Getty Images

Frank Driggs Collection / Getty Images

The singer Etta James died on Friday from complications from leukemia. She was 73. Known as “Miss Peaches,” James’s career began in the 1950s and defied all genres with hits including “The Wallflower” and “At Last.” The winner of six Grammys and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, James debuted the voice that would send her to stardom in Los Angeles church choirs. Though she never achieved the degree of popular success enjoyed by other R&B and soul stars, James’s impact on pop, rock, and rhythm and blues continues to be felt - she has been cited as an influence by Adele and was portrayed by Beyoncé in 2008’s Cadillac Records. In recent years, James had been diagnosed with leukemia, dementia, and hepatitis C while her family battled over her estate. See iconic images from her life and career.

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R&B singer Etta James poses for a portrait in 1965 in New York. James had her first hit as a teenager with the song "The Wallflower" in 1954, and then signed onto Chess Records in 1960. At Chess, she established herself with a series of hits, including "All I Could Do Is Cry," "Trust in  Me," and "At Last."

House Of Fame LLC / Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images

Etta James rehearses a song before recording at Fame Studios in 1967 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. 1967 marked the year of her big comeback, when she debuted an edgier, more soulful sound after years-long absence from the charts.

Julian Wasser, Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

Etta James playing with her kitten at the hospital where she was in therapy for a drug addiction in June 1974. James struggled with heroin addiction for years, developing the habit in the 1960s. After overcoming heroin, she started using cocaine. She detailed her struggles with drugs in her 1995 memoir, Rage to Survive.

Horst Faas / AP Photo

Muhammad Ali plays a few notes on the piano while visiting Etta James and the other artists who performed in the Zaire 74 music festival in Kinshasa, Zaire. The concert was organized as part of a promotional event to coincide with Ali's famous "Rumble in the Jungle" fight with George Foreman.

Nick Ut / AP Photo

Etta James holds a replica of her star after an unveiling ceremony on the Walk of Fame April 18, 2003 in Hollywood.

Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo

Etta James & The Roots Band perform June 19, 2004 at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

John Angelillo / Landov

Beyoncé Knowles pays tribute to Etta James during a performance at Fashion Rocks at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Sept. 5, 2008. James famously said she couldn't "stand" Knowles and threatened to "whip" her for singing "At Last" at a Inaugural ball for President Obama in 2009. James later said she was joking and that she wished she had been invited to sing for the president.

Kelsey McNeal, ABC / Getty Images

Etta James performs her rendition of the Grammy Hall of Fame song, "At Last," on Dancing with the Stars April 7, 2009 on ABC.

Susan Poag, Times-Picayune / Landov

Etta James performs on the Gentilly Stage during the 2009 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell April 26, 2009 in New Orleans.