The late Etta James remained an active recording artist right up to the end, releasing her final album, The Dreamer, just two months before her death on January 20. But she hadn't been on a Billboard singles chart since the '70s, when a cover of Erma Franklin's "Piece of My Heart" from her 1978 comeback album Deep In The Night grazed the R&B chart at No. 93. So it feels remarkable, if not astronomically coincidental, that the biggest chart hit to feature James's voice peaked on the Hot 100 the week of her death.
Last year, Swedish dance music producer Avicii sampled a few a cappella patches of James's performance on the 1962 single "Something's Got A Hold On Me," which peaked at No. 4 on the R&B charts and No. 37 on the Hot 100 almost a full half century earlier. The resulting track, "Levels," topped the charts in several European countries, including Avicii's homeland. And soon enough, Avicii was in the studio with the King Midas of American pop radio, Dr. Luke, co-producing a single for Miami rapper Flo Rida based largely on "Levels" and its central sample. "Good Feeling" had been lurking in or just outside the U.S. top 10 for the last couple months of 2010, and had reached a peak of No. 3 the week Etta James passed away (it stayed there the week after, and dropped to No. 4 last week). Meanwhile "Levels" has enjoyed its own parallel Stateside success, topping the Hot Dance Club Songs chart and reaching No. 62 on the Hot 100.More »