'This is a Huge Loss'
Beyonce Knowles -- who played Etta James in "Cadillac Records" -- has released a statement on the singer's death ... praising James as "one of the greatest vocalists of our time."
James infamously slammed Beyonce in 2009 after Knowles sang "At Last" at Obama's inauguration .. when Etta said, "That woman he had singing for him, singing my song ... she's going to get her ass whipped."
But Beyonce was gracious ... adding in today's statement, "I am so fortunate to have met such a queen. Her musical contributions will last a lifetime."
She continued, "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. She was fearless, and had guts. She will be missed."