by Scarlet Waters
One of the most unsung super-heroins, if you will, of Funk Music is the great Betty Davis. Born Betty Mabry in Durham, North Carolina and former wife of the great Jazz trumpet player Miles Davis, Betty Davis might be the funkiest woman that ever walked this earth. I discovered her one day listening to WPFW in Washington, D.C. when I attended Howard University.
I was driving down Sherman Ave, and this song came on the radio with this woman singing in this bluesy-gritty voice “I beat him with my turquoise chain!” and I was like WHO is THAT?! That my friends is Ms. Betty Davis, who while relatively unknown in the world of Pop music, is very well known by most musicians, not just because she was married to Miles Davis, but because she was so ahead of her time, people are still discovering her today.
Truth is, when she married Miles in 1968, she actually had a huge influence on him! Miles credits Betty with introducing him to Jimi Hendrix and Sly and The Family Stone, which led to his album Bitches Brew and the birth of Jazz Fusion. Tall and beautiful, Betty quickly tired of the modeling career she was pursuing and began to focus strictly on music. She wrote Uptown (to Harlem) for the Chambers Brothers in 1967, and after producing with South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, she eventually scored one of her biggest hits and my favorite song by her If I”m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up.
Check out the covers of her albums They Say I’m Different, and Nasty Gal, and you can see that she might have been too much for the times she was living in. Long before Madonna or Rihanna, Betty Davis was pushing the envelope with her blatantly sexual lyrics and scanty costumes. She was fearless, blunt, and beyond the control of any record company. She worked with numerous well-known musicians including Herbie Hancock and singer Sylvester, but after years of trying and having her albums shelved, she quit and moved back to a quiet life in Pennsylvania.
READ: Sly & The Family Stone
There has been a recent resurgence of interest in her and her music at her tender age of 72, so please, Google her, check her out and catch up on someone that Black America truly missed out on!