Celebrities Pay Tribute at Etta James Funeral

Christina Aguilera and Stevie Wonder sang at the service

By Tierney McAfee
|  Sunday, Feb 26, 2012  |  Updated 2:08 PM EDT
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Public Viewing for Etta James

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The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a eulogy at Etta James' funeral.

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Hundreds of friends, family and fans gathered to remember R&B legend Etta James at a private service Saturday.

The Rev. Al Sharpton eulogized James, describing her rise from poverty to prestige, her battles with addiction, and the way in which she broke down racial barriers with her velvety vocal style. He opened his speech with a statement from President Obama, who memorably danced with the first lady at the inaugural ball to a version of James’ “At Last” sung by Beyoncé.

"Etta will be remembered for her legendary voice and her contributions to our nation's musical heritage," the president’s statement read.

James died Jan. 20 at age 73 after battling leukemia, dementia and other ailments. She was most famous for her classic ballad, “At Last,” but her career spanned decades, garnered four Grammys and inspired artists of all ages and genres.

Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera and other stars paid tribute to James at the funeral held at City of Refuge church in Gardena, Calif.

Wonder performed three songs, including "Shelter In the Rain,” and a harmonica solo. James’ rose-covered casket was on display, flanked by floral arrangements and pictures of the singer.

Aguilera performed “At Last,” telling the crowd that she has sung the wedding favorite at all of her concerts as a homage to her role model.

Sharpton, who met James when he was an up-and-coming preacher, said the singer’s story is one of triumph over tragedy.

"The genius of Etta James is she flipped the script," Sharpton said of the singer’s struggles with food and drug addiction. “She waited until she turned her pain into power.”

"You beat 'em Etta," Sharpton said at the end of his eulogy. "At last. At last. At last!"

Suggested Reading: MSNBC, CNN, The Los Angeles Times

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