Throughout her career, James has released 30 albums and 58 singles. She has explored the musical genres of gospel, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and jazz.
"That sound…it's so deceptively simple. It's so true and of the heart and there's not a lot of orchestration or production," Smith said. "It's just about maybe one or two, at most, instruments and it's about somebody voicing longing and, a lot of times, pain and the tough side of love."
James was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and 2008. In 2003, James received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. She was awarded six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards, and was named No. 22 on Rolling Stones' 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Today, the Recording Academy released a statement about the "dynamic legacy" James has left behind.
"She will forever be remembered for her timeless ballad, 'At Last,' and a powerful voice that will echo around the world for generations to come," the statement said. "We extend our deepest sympathies to her family, friends, fans and all who have been stirred by her soulful songs and passion for music."
James is survived by her husband, Artis Mills, and their two sons, Donto and Sametto.