Etta James on breathing machine in Calif. hospital

LOS ANGELES Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:34pm EST

Jazz singer and songwriter Etta James arrives as a guest at the premiere of the film ''Cadillac Records'' in Hollywood, California, in this November 24, 2008 file photograph. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files

Jazz singer and songwriter Etta James arrives as a guest at the premiere of the film ''Cadillac Records'' in Hollywood, California, in this November 24, 2008 file photograph.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser/Files

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Grammy-winning singer Etta James, who has been deemed terminally ill with leukemia, has been hospitalized in California and placed on a breathing machine, her long-time manager and friend said on Friday.

James, 73, best known for the blues ballad "At Last," was taken to the hospital near her home in Riverside, east of Los Angeles, earlier this week because she was struggling to breathe.

"They took her to the hospital. She was having trouble breathing, so they intubated her. She is on a breathing machine and is resting," Lupe De-Leon, the singer's manager for 30 years, told Reuters.

The singer has been in failing health for a number of years and suffers from leukemia, kidney disease and dementia but had previously been cared for at her Southern California home.

Her live-in doctor said last week that James was considered terminally ill, and that she communicates mostly with nods and simple words.

The three-time Grammy Award singer earlier battled obesity and was addicted to heroin for many years.

"It is really sad. She is like my sister," De-Leon said on Friday.

James was a key figure in the early days of R&B music with hit songs like "The Wallflower" and "Good Rockin' Daddy". But it was her 1961 recording of "At Last" that put her on the map.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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