The news of her death was confirmed by her longtime friend and manager, Lupe De Leon.
"This is a tremendous loss for the family, her friends and fans around the world," said De Leon.
"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," De Leon added.
Because of health problems, James, who died Friday, had curtailed her concerts in January 2010 after she was admitted to hospital with a blood infection, among other ailments, including Alzheimer’s disease.
In May 2011, James was again taken to a hospital with a urinary tract infection and the blood infection sepsis.
The winner of four Grammys and a 1993 inductee to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, James was portrayed in the 2008 movie "Cadillac Records" by Beyonce Knowles.