The 'At Last' singer passed away at a hospital in California on Friday (January 20) after battling with leukaemia for more than a year.
The 73-year-old was surrounded by loved ones including her son Donto, who said that getting to be with the legend until the end had been a "true gift".
"I'm very grateful. She basically passed in my arms, and I was able to share everything I needed to say to her, from praying to listing her accomplishments as a mother," he told People.
"I asked her if she heard what I said, and she'd flutter her eyes and look at me very quickly. And she had been nonreactive before that.
"It was a true gift to be with her when it happened. I wouldn't want it any other way than for her to go in our arms. I told her that I loved her. I said, 'You were a wonderful mother, you did a wonderful job, your seven grandchildren love you, and they will be okay'."
James's death has also been mourned by a number of celebrities around the world, including Beyoncé, who described her as "one of the greatest vocalists of our time".
The 30-year-old added: "I am so fortunate to have met such a queen. Her musical contributions will last a lifetime. Singing her music inspired me to be a stronger artist... she was fearless, and had guts."
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Watch Etta James perform 'At Last' below: