Etta James

  • Year:
  • Inducted by:
    k.d. Lang
  • Category:
Etta James


Her voice delivered nuanced wisdom and raw power in equal measure.

Etta James had one of the greatest voices of her century. Forever the matriarch of the blues, she has been immortalized by such hits as “At Last,” “Tell Mama” and “Sunday Kind of Love.”

Hall of Fame Essay


David Writz

If rock & roll is rooted in teenage passion, teenage rebellion, teenage restlessness, teenage sexuality — then Etta James is a rock & roller to the bone. Starting out as a teenage phenomenon in, the Fifties, she sang with a raw, unharnessed energy that matched her male coun­terparts. 

Her first hit, in fact, was an in-your-face reply to Hank Ballard’s “Work With Me Annie”; she was 15 when she wrote and cut “Roll With Me Henry” (aka “The Wallflower”). Etta's erotic audacity echoed the raunch of sisters like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, but in any era she would be considered a front-line femi­nist, a  womanchild strong enough to dramatize the out­rage of her gender, to break old chains and signify, “I don’t want a watchdog…I want a man.”

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Program Cover 1993
1 of 4
She sings truth into every note.
K. D. Lang



Photography: Kevin Mazur, WireImage