"She was fearless, and had guts," says Beyoncé, who played Etta on screen

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated January 20, 2012 02:45 PM
Gilbert Flores/Celebrity Photo

Calling her “the eternally great Etta James,” Beyoncé is paying special tribute to the quintessential R&B diva, who died on Friday morning at 73 from complications of leukemia.

“This is a huge loss. Etta James was one of the greatest vocalists of our time,” Beyoncé, who played James in the movie Cadillac Records, posted in a message on her website.

“I am so fortunate to have met such a queen. Her musical contributions will last a lifetime.”

Speaking of her role in the 2008 film, the new mom adds, “Playing Etta James taught me so much about myself, and singing her music inspired me to be a stronger artist. When she effortlessly opened her mouth, you could hear her pain and triumph. Her deeply emotional way of delivering a song told her story with no filter.”

In a final tip of the hat, Beyoncé says, “She was fearless, and had guts. She will be missed.”

Also adding to the chorus of praise for the greatly admired singer: Aretha Franklin. “Etta James was one of the great soul singers of our generation. An American original! I loved ‘Pushover,’ ‘At Last’ and almost any and everything she recorded,” the songstress tells PEOPLE. “When Etta SUNG, you heard it!”

Pink also shared her thoughts on the legend. On her Twitter page, the pop star wrote: “RIP to the late and great Etta James. Your voice and your fight inspired me and many. I love that through recordings, people can live forever.”