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HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin

Recovering Heroin Addict Etta James Dies at 73

The legendary singer of "At Last" passed away in California today.


Etta James on the cover of her
1971 album Losers Weepers. Photo via

By Hunter R. Slaton


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Etta James, the legendary African-American soul, blues, gospel and R&B singer—and a recovering heroin addict who in 1988 checked into Betty Ford—has died aged 73 in Riverside, California, from leukemia complications. The multiple-Grammy-winning artist was most famous for her much-covered 1960 hit "At Last" [below]. As she related in her 1995 memoir, Rage to Survive, James struggled mightily with various addictions—most vexingly, overeating. "It's taken me most of my life to come to terms with the white powder addictions—heroin and cocaine," she wrote. "For years now, I've also put down other habits, like cigarettes and booze. But food...started earliest and lasted longest. For me, food is the killer." James was born in LA on January 25, 1938, to a 14-year-old mother, and an absentee, mystery father. She was later taken in and raised by Lula and Jesse Rogers, whom James described as "a good man who liked his liquor." James wrote: "He'd get drunk and disappear. At one point he went away for a long time, came home, and never drank again."

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