The fashion, future-funk, out spoken singer, song writer, and producer Betty Davis, has passed away at age 77.
In Betty Davis’ heyday, she highly sexualized lyrics and concepts that gave birth to three albums (1973’s Betty Davis, 1974’s They Say I’m Different, and 1975’s penultimate Nasty Gal ). These albums were as dynamic in self-creation as it was in being uninhibited.
Sadly, she dropped out of the recording scene early, disappearing after the mid-1970s, but, the woman born Betty Mabry in North Carolina was an influential artist and a generational talent.
She was married to jazz legend Miles Davis, and was credited with having paved a way for R&B and hip hop to cultivate and flourish.
As part of the pop-art ’60s scene in New York City, Betty Davis was a model for designers like (Betsey Johnson and Norma Kamali). In 1968, she transitioned into songwriter, working with trumpeter/arranger Hugh Masekela on the songs (Live, Love, Learn and It’s My Life) which led to her relationship with Miles Davis.
Together, alongside producer Teo Macero, they worked on a handful of self-penned songs, and included in the compilation The Columbia Years, 1968-1969.
There were obvious issues between her and Miles but it didn’t dilute the influence she had on her husband’s music.
She also introduced Miles to guitarist Jimi Hendrix, which backfired according to the trumpeter’s 1989 autobiography. She later hired a cavalcade of creatives (Greg Errico, Larry Graham from Sly and the Family Stone) and put out her self-titled debut album on the Just Sunshine label.
This record didn’t sell, but it set a standard of what would become the foundational grooves for rock-funk.
Betty Davis’s 1975’s Nasty Gal was a definitive effort, full of fried funk and scintillating soul featuring self-penned songs like (Shut Off the Light and “Gettin Kicked Off, Havin’ Fun) which also resulted in minimal sales.
After she left Island Records, Davis disappeared from the music scene.
A documentary about her life, Betty: They Say I’m Different, arrived in 2017, and followed a revaluation of her impact in the hip hop era where forward-thinking artists like OutKast and Erykah Badu were progeny of.
With Davis’ passing announced, Light in the Attic revealed plans to issue Davis’ final album, “Crashin’ from Passion.”
Rest in Peace Betty Davis.