This Day in Black History: Jan. 25, 1938

Etta James was born in Los Angeles.

Posted: 01/25/2014 12:00 AM EST

Gospel prodigy and musical icon Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkis on Jan, 25, 1938, in Los Angeles. Her mother was only 14 years old. Despite her own youth and inexperience, she gave her daughter some sage advice: "Even if a song has been done a thousand times, you can still bring something of our own to it."

By the time she was five, James was singing on the radio. At 12, she formed her own band and at 16, moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles to record her first record and changed her name to Etta James. In 1995, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

James is perhaps best known for the ballad "At Last," which she first recorded in 1960. Interestingly, music fans of a certain generation may more often than not link the tune to Beyoncé, who played James and sang her own unique cover of the song in the film Cadillac Records in 2008.

Beyoncé also pushed "At Last" once again into the national spotlight when she performed it at President Obama's first dance with First Lady Michelle Obama at his inaugural ball in 2009. Although James publicly supported Cadillac Records, she reportedly was extremely miffed by the younger artist's inauguration performance.

Beyoncé "had no business," James said, "singing my song that I've been singing forever."

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 Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick

(Photo: Michael Ochs Archives / Redferns Agency via Getty Images)

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