Etta James famously remarked, “When I’m singing blues, I’m singing life.” And her life was blue in many ways—she had troubles with drugs and men; she never knew her dad. But the greatest tragedy of James’ life was probably her interactions with the music industry, which rarely gave her the outlet she deserved. James came up with the help of Johnny Otis, who also died last week. He gave the woman born Jamesetta Hawkins her stage name and helped her get her first recording contract with Modern Records. But it was her second contract, with Chicago’s famous Chess Records, that catapulted her to fame. Her debut album at Chess, At Last!, contained a number of hits: the famous title track, of course, but even better were the smooth, mournful rendition of “Stormy Weather” and the yearning “A Sunday Kind of Love”.