Singer Etta James breathing on her own again

LOS ANGELES Fri Dec 30, 2011 7:42pm 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) - Soul singer Etta James, who is terminally ill with leukemia, has been taken off a respirator and is breathing on her own again, her friend and manager said on Friday.

Lupe De Leon said the "At Last" singer, 73, is soon expected to leave the intensive care unit of a hospital near her home in Riverside, east of Los Angeles.

"The hospital is preparing Etta for release from ICU to a step down unit. She is stable and breathing on her own. Her blood pressure is normal," De Leon said.

James was admitted to the hospital last week because she was struggling to breathe. She has been in failing health for several 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 earlier in December 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.

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 the ballad "At Last" that put her on the map.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy)

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