Etta James’ Son Carries on the Icon’s Legacy

Etta James

Etta James’ son, Donto James, had an interview with The Daily Beast in which he discussed life with his mother as a child in addition to answering questions about the latter years of her life — including some of the legal challenges against her late husband.

On life with Etta James not exactly being leisurely:

“People tended to think that because my mother was Etta James I must have had a great life with caviar and steaks every night, but it wasn’t like that. We were poor and broke. We were lucky to get Spam sandwiches and frosted flakes for desert. We are talking about eating cereal in water but we always had a roof over our heads. It wasn’t like we were starving. We did all right.”

On James’ string of cancellations and outbursts in the later years of her life not being signs of dementia as speculated:

“It was always resentment-based,” he said. He said she turned down a gig playing at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration ceremony on the morning of the concert because she felt she wasn’t getting paid enough. “She woke up in the morning and said, ‘I have a headache. I am not doing [the show].’ That was how she was. She did what she wanted to do. She would dwell on things. She didn’t want to be taken advantage of and she would get resentful of certain things and she would act on it.”

Donto said he didn’t know until the last minute whether his mother would perform or not. “We would go up to play first, and we would always wonder if she was going to come out,” he said. “I would say, ‘Why do you do that?’ and she would say, ‘Just to mess with you.’”

On distrust of  Artis Mills, James’ late husband and tour manager:

“During my mother’s working life, she set aside bank accounts for herself and gave Artis Mills the other half of her earnings,” he wrote to a Riverside County judge. “She did this because she did not trust Artis Mills and wanted to keep her half of her monies separate. Having received all the money given to him by my mother, Artis Mills now wishes to invade her accounts and dispose of this money as well.”

On carrying on Etta’s legacy:

“Me and her grandkids will carry on her legacy. They are singing and playing instruments now. She has a granddaughter who looks exactly like her.”

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