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Etta James funeral plans announced

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 5:34 PM EST, Tue January 24, 2012
A private funeral has been planned for Saturday for the late soul singer Etta James.
A private funeral has been planned for Saturday for the late soul singer Etta James.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A public viewing is set for Friday evening
  • Saturday's funeral will be for friends, family
  • James, who would have turned 74 on Wednesday, died Friday
  • The singer is best know for the wedding favorite "At Last"

Los Angeles (CNN) -- The Rev. Al Sharpton will preside at Saturday's funeral for Etta James, the legendary singer's family said Tuesday.

James died Friday of complications of leukemia with her husband, Artis Mills, and sons Donto and Sametto James by her side.

A public viewing is set for Friday evening at the Inglewood Cemetery in Inglewood, California, the family said.

The funeral at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Greater Bethany Community Church City of Refuge in Gardena "is private for immediate family and friends," according to spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger. Plans are being made for "limited media access."

The family has requested donations be sent to The Rhythm & Blues Foundation.

James was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, and also suffered from dementia and hepatitis C. She died at a hospital in Riverside, California. She would have turned 74 on Wednesday.

Her assertive, earthy voice lit up such hits as "The Wallflower," "Something's Got a Hold on Me" and the wedding favorite "At Last."

The powerhouse singer, known as "Miss Peaches," lived an eventful life. She first hit the charts as a teenager, taking "The Wallflower (Roll With Me, Henry)" -- an "answer record" to Hank Ballard's "Work With Me, Annie" -- to No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1955. She joined Chess Records in 1960 and had a string of R&B and pop hits, many with lush string arrangements. After a mid-decade fade, she re-emerged in 1967 with a more hard-edged, soulful sound.

Throughout her career, James overcame a heroin addiction, opened for the Rolling Stones, won six Grammys and was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Despite her ups and downs -- including a number of health problems -- she maintained an optimistic attitude.

"Most of the songs I sing, they have that blue feeling to it. They have that sorry feeling. And I don't know what I'm sorry about," she told CNN's Denise Quan in 2002. "I don't!"

Through it all, she was a spitfire beloved by contemporaries and young up-and-comers.

"Etta James is unmanageable, and I'm the closest thing she's ever had to a manager," Lupe De Leon, her manager of 30-plus years, told CNN in admiration.

British songstress Adele named James as one of her favorite singers, along with Aretha Franklin.

"If you were to look up the word 'singer' in the dictionary, you'd see their names," Adele said in an interview.

Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles to a teen mother and unknown father. (She suspected her father was Rudolph Wanderone Jr., the famous pool hustler known as Minnesota Fats.)

CNN's Denise Quan and Todd Leopold contributed to this report.

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