Her manager and longtime friend Lupe De Leon confirmed the news to CNN.
“This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world,” De Leon said.
“She was a true original who could sing it all – her music defied category. I worked with Etta for over 30 years. She was my friend and I will miss her always.”
Born Jamesetta Hawkins, one of the legendary voices of the blues, Etta had a great success with her song “At Last” in 1961. In her career she had received four Grammy Awards and in 1993 she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
After a lengthy struggle with leukemia, she asked her fans to pray for her when she became terminally ill just before Christmas. In the last hours of her life, her husband Artis Mills and sons Donto James and Sametto James were at her bedside.
Etta James is considered one of the singers who had one of the biggest influences on subsequent generations. Diana Ross, Beyoncé, Amy Winehouse or Adele have largely drawn their inspiration from her.