Etta James has been hospitalised after experiencing breathing difficulties.

The 73-year-old singer - who was recently told her leukemia was incurable - has her family by her side at a Southern California hospital, where she was taken earlier this week.

Lupe De Leon - who has been Etta's manager for 30 years - said the 'At Last' hitmaker is in "pretty bad shape".

Elaine James - who is no relation to the Grammy winner - has been caring for Etta at her California home since March 2010 and she recently urged people to pray for the blues singer.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member was diagnosed with cancer and dementia earlier this year and has mostly been receiving at-home care.

Etta has been struggling with her health throughout the past year and was admitted to a California hospital to deal with a form of blood poisoning caused by a urinary tract infection.

Earlier this year, she was at the centre of a court case when her husband Artis Mills and son Donto James were involved in a dispute over the control of her assets to pay her medical care, but both parities eventually agreed to resolve the issue with mediation.