Betty Davis

Betty Davis (née Mabry; born July 26, 1945)[1] is an American funk and soul singer. She is known as one of the most influential voices of the funk era[2] and a performer who was known for her memorable live shows.

Betty Davis
Birth nameBetty Mabry
BornJuly 26, 1945 (age 73)
Durham, North Carolina, U.S.
OriginNew York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, model
Years active1960s–1979


Born in 1945, Betty Mabry grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and just outside Pittsburgh. On her grandmother's farm in Reidsville, North Carolina, she listened to B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, and Elmore James and other blues musicians. One of the first songs she wrote, at the age of twelve, was called "I’m Going to Bake That Cake of Love."[3]

Aged 16, she left Pittsburgh for New York City, enrolling at the Fashion Institute of Technology while living with her aunt. She soaked up the Greenwich Village culture and folk music of the early 1960s. She associated herself with frequenters of the Cellar, a hip uptown club where young and stylish people congregated. It was a multiracial, artsy crowd of models, design students, actors, and singers. At the Cellar she played records and chatted people up. She also worked as a model, appearing in photo spreads in Seventeen, Ebony and Glamour.[4]

In her time in New York, she met several musicians including Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. The seeds of her musical career were planted through her friendship with soul singer Lou Courtney, who produced her first single, “The Cellar” with simple, catchy lyrics like, “Where you going fellas, so fly? / I’m going to the Cellar, my oh my / What you going to do there / We’re going to boogaloo there.”

The single was a local jam for the Cellar. Yet her first professional gig was not until she wrote "Uptown (to Harlem)" for the Chambers Brothers. Their 1967 album was a major success, but Betty Mabry was focusing on her modeling career. She was successful as a model but felt bored by the work. According to Oliver Wang's They Say I’m Different liner notes, she said, “I didn’t like modeling because you didn’t need brains to do it. It’s only going to last as long as you look good.”

In 2017 a documentary was released entitled "Betty: They Say I'm Different."[5][6]

The live action/animated TV series "Mike Judge Presents: Tales From the Tour Bus" ended its 2018 season with an episode focusing on Davis' controversial career.[7]

Personal life

Marriage to Miles Davis

As a 22-year-old model in 1967, Betty met jazz musician Miles Davis who was 19 years her senior. They married the following year in September 1968. In just one year of marriage, she influenced him greatly by introducing him to the fashions and the new popular music trends of the era. In his autobiography, Miles credited Betty with helping to plant the seeds of his future musical explorations by introducing the trumpeter to psychedelic rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix and funk innovator Sly Stone. The Miles Davis album Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968) includes a song named after her and her photo on the front cover.

In his autobiography, Miles said Betty was "too young and wild," and accused her of having an affair with Jimi Hendrix which hastened the end of their marriage.[8] Betty denied the affair stating, "I was so angry with Miles when he wrote that. It was disrespectful to Jimi and to me. Miles and I broke up because of his violent temper."[9] After accusing her of adultery, he filed for divorce in 1969.[10] Miles told Jet magazine at the time that the divorce was obtained on a "temperament" charge. He added, "I'm just not the kind of cat to be married."[11] Betty and Miles continued to see each other after their divorce.[9] Hendrix and Miles remained close, planning to record, until Hendrix's death. The influence of Hendrix and especially Sly Stone on Miles Davis was obvious on the album Bitches Brew (1970), which ushered in the era of jazz fusion. The origin of the album's title is unknown, but some believe Miles was subtly paying tribute to Betty and her girlfriends. In fact, it is said that he originally wanted to call the album Witches Brew—it was Betty who convinced him to change it.[12]


Davis briefly dated musician Eric Clapton whom she refused to collaborate with because she reportedly felt his work was too banal.[13][14]

In 1975, Davis' lover Robert Palmer helped her facilitate a deal with Island Records. She released her album Nasty Gal shortly after.[14]

Music career

As Betty Mabry, she recorded "Get Ready For Betty" b/w "I'm Gonna Get My Baby Back" in 1964 for DCP International. Sometime in that same era, she also recorded a duet with Roy Arlington and under their joint name "Roy and Betty," released a single for Safice entitled, "I'll Be There."

Betty's first major credit was writing "Uptown (to Harlem)" for the Chambers Brothers, 1967.

In 1968, when she was still involved with Hugh Masekela, she recorded several songs for Columbia Records, with Masekela doing the arrangements. Two of them were released as a single: "Live, Love, Learn" b/w "It's My Life." Her relationship with Miles Davis began soon after her breakup from Masekela and in the spring of 1969, Betty returned to Columbia's 52nd St. Studios to record a series of demo tracks, with Miles and Teo Macero producing. At least five songs were taped during those sessions, three of which were Mabry originals, two of which were covers of Cream and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Miles attempted to use these demo songs to secure an album deal for Betty but neither Columbia nor Atlantic were interested and they were archived into a vault until 2016 for the compilation, Betty Davis, The Columbia Years, 1968-69, released by Seattle's Light in the Attic Records.

After the end of her marriage with Miles, Betty moved to London, probably around 1971, to pursue her modeling career. She wrote music while in the UK and returned to the US around 1972 with the intention of recording songs with Santana. Instead, she recorded her own songs with a group of West Coast funk musicians. Davis wrote and arranged all her songs.[13] Her first record, Betty Davis, was released in 1973. She released two more studio albums, They Say I'm Different (1974)[15] and her major label debut on Island Records Nasty Gal (1975). None of the three albums was a commercial success, but she had two minor hits on the Billboard R&B chart: "If I'm in Luck I Might Get Picked Up," which reached no. 66 in 1973, and "Shut Off the Lights", which reached no. 97 in 1975.[16]

Davis remained a cult figure as a singer, due in part to her open sexual attitude, which was controversial for the time. Some of her shows were boycotted, and her songs were not played on the radio due to pressure by religious groups and the NAACP.[17] Carlos Santana recalled Betty as "indomitable – she couldn't be tamed. Musically, philosophically and physically, she was extreme and attractive."[9]

Both Betty Davis (1973) and They Say I'm Different (1974) were re-released by Light in the Attic Records on May 1, 2007. In September 2009, Light in the Attic Records reissued Nasty Gal and her unreleased fourth studio album recorded in 1976, re-titled as Is It Love or Desire?. Both reissues contained extensive liner notes and shed some light on the mystery of why her fourth album, considered possibly to be her best work by many members of her last band (Herbie Hancock, Chuck Rainey, Alphonse Mouzon), was shelved by the record label and remained unreleased for 33 years. After some final recording sessions in 1979 (Crashin' from Passion), Davis eventually stopped making music and returned to Pennsylvania.

Material from the 1979 recording sessions was eventually used for two bootleg albums, Crashin' from Passion (1995) and Hangin' Out in Hollywood (1996). A greatest hits album, Anti Love: The Best of Betty Davis, was released in 2000.



Year Single Label Notes
196? "The Cellar"/"???" Independent Release 1st Studio Single; Produced by Lou Courtney
1964 "Get Ready for Betty" / "I'm Gonna Get My Baby Back" DCP 2nd Studio Single
1968 "It's My Life" / "Live, Love, Learn" Columbia 3rd Studio Single
1973 "If I'm in Luck I Might Get Picked Up" / "Steppin in Her I. Miller Shoes" Just Sunshine
1973 "Ooh Yea" / "In the Meantime" Just Sunshine
1974 "Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him" / "He Was a Big Freak" Just Sunshine
1974 "Git in There" /"They Say I'm Different" Just Sunshine
1975 "Shut Off the Lights" / "He Was a Big Freak" Island

Studio albums

Year Album Label Notes
1973 Betty Davis Just Sunshine
Light in the Attic (2007 re-release)
1st studio album; produced by Greg Errico
1974 They Say I'm Different Just Sunshine
Light in the Attic (2007 re-release)
2nd studio album; produced by Betty Davis
1975 Nasty Gal Island
Light in the Attic (2009 re-release)
3rd studio album; produced by Betty Davis
2009 Is It Love or Desire? Light In The Attic 4th album; recorded in 1976 and released in 2009


2016 The Columbia Years 1968-69 Light In The Attic tracks recorded in 1968 - 1969 and released in 2016; produced by Miles Davis & Teo Macero

Unofficial releases

  • Crashin' from Passion (1995) (Razor & Tie) / Hangin' Out in Hollywood (1996) (Charly) - Compilation of material recorded in 1979 and released without the artist's consent
  • Anti Love: The Best of Betty Davis (2000) (UFoxy) - Compilation
  • This Is It! Anthology (2005) (Vampisoul) - Compilation


  1. ^ Betty Davis at AllMusic
  2. ^ "A FUNK QUEEN STEPS OUT OF THE SHADOWS / Betty Mabry Davis set the standard with her sassy '70s sound. Finally, she's getting her due". SFGate. Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  3. ^ McDonnell‏, Evelyn (2018). Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyonce. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal. ISBN 978-0316558877. She penned her first song "I'm going to bake that Cake of Love" when she was 12 years old.
  4. ^ "Betty Davis". Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  5. ^ Betty: They Say I'm Different, retrieved 2018-12-23
  6. ^ "Betty they say i'm Different". Betty they say i'm Different. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
  7. ^ Cinemax Fri., Dec. 21.
  8. ^ Davis, Miles; Troupe, Quincy (1990). Miles: The Autobiography. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-72582-2.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ a b c Spencer, Neil (September 4, 2010). "Miles Davis: The muse who changed him, and the heady Brew that rewrote jazz". The Guardian.
  10. ^ Miles Davis, Quincy Troupe (2012). Miles : The Autobiography. Macmillan. ISBN 9781447218371.
  11. ^ "Miles Davis Signs $300,000 Record Pact; Sheds Wife". Jet. 37 (24): 53. March 12, 1970.
  12. ^ "Madonna before Madonna: The woman who introduced Miles to Hendrix finally speaks". Retrieved 2012-06-10.
  13. ^ a b Dremousis, Lisa (May 31, 2007). "The Soul Singer in the Shadows". Esquire.
  14. ^ a b Hundley, Jessica (June 15, 2014). "The singer, whose sexually potent 70s funk blueprint virtually created its own genre, talks about her personal soul revolution". Dazed.
  15. ^ "Betty Davis: Betty Davis / They Say I'm Different". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 104.
  17. ^ Mahon, Maureen (15 June 2011). "They Say She's Different: Race, Gender, Genre, and the Liberated Black Femininity of Betty Davis". Journal of Popular Music Studies. 23 (2): 146–165. doi:10.1111/j.1533-1598.2011.01277.x.


External links

Bette Davis Eyes

"Bette Davis Eyes" is a song written and composed by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon, and made popular by American singer Kim Carnes. DeShannon recorded it in 1974; Carnes's 1981 version spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was Billboard's biggest hit of 1981.

Betty Davis (album)

Betty Davis is the eponymous debut studio album by American funk singer Betty Davis, released through Just Sunshine Records (an upstart label) in 1973. The album was produced by Greg Errico and features contributions from a number of noted musicians such as Neal Schon, Merl Saunders, Sylvester, Larry Graham, Pete Sears, and The Pointer Sisters.

In 2007, the album was re-issued on CD and vinyl by the Light in the Attic label.

Chuck Rainey

Charles Walter "Chuck" Rainey III (born June 17, 1940 in Cleveland, Ohio, United States) is an American bass guitarist who has performed and recorded with many well-known acts, including Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, and Quincy Jones.

Doug Rauch

Douglass Haywood Rauch (14 September 1950 – 23 April 1979) was an American bassist most famous for his work with Carlos Santana during his jazz fusion period in the early 1970s.

Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth Davis may refer to:

Elizabeth Davis (Mormon) (1791–1876), American Latter-Day Saint and wife of Joseph Smith, Jr

Elizabeth Davis (bassist) (born 1965), bassist with 7 Year Bitch

Elizabeth A. Davis (born 1980), American actress and musician

Elizabeth Gould Davis (1910–1974), American librarian and feminist writer

Elizabeth Peke Davis (1803–1860), Hawaiian royalty

Elizabeth Beall (née Davis), American television writer

Bette Davis (1908–1989), American actress

Betty Davis (born 1945), American funk, rock and soul singer

Bettye Davis (1938–2018), American politician, social worker, and nurse

Elisabeth Davis (cyclist), American cyclist, competed in 1989 UCI Road World Championships – Women's team time trial

Elizabeth L. Davis (1885–1944), African-American teacher and activist

Elizabeth Davis (midwife), author and women's health care specialist

Elizabeth Peke Davis

Elizabeth Peke Davis or sometimes Betty Davis (1803–1860) was a Hawaiian high chiefess, being the hapa haole daughter of Isaac Davis, the Welsh advisor of Kamehameha I, who helped him unify the island in 1810. She was the wife of George Prince Kaumualiʻi, also known as Humehume.


Funk is a music genre that originated in African-American communities in the mid-1960s when African-American musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul music, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). Funk de-emphasizes melody and chord progressions and focuses on a strong rhythmic groove of a bass line played by an electric bassist and a drum part played by a drummer. Like much of African-inspired music, funk typically consists of a complex groove with rhythm instruments playing interlocking grooves. Funk uses the same richly colored extended chords found in bebop jazz, such as minor chords with added sevenths and elevenths, or dominant seventh chords with altered ninths and thirteenths.

Funk originated in the mid-1960s, with James Brown's development of a signature groove that emphasized the downbeat—with heavy emphasis on the first beat of every measure ("The One"), and the application of swung 16th notes and syncopation on all bass lines, drum patterns, and guitar riffs. Other musical groups, including Sly and the Family Stone, the Meters, and Parliament-Funkadelic, soon began to adopt and develop Brown's innovations. While much of the written history of funk focuses on men, there have been notable funk women, including Chaka Khan, Labelle, Lyn Collins, Brides of Funkenstein, Klymaxx, Mother's Finest, and Betty Davis.

Funk derivatives include the psychedelic funk of Sly Stone and George Clinton; the avant-funk of groups such as Talking Heads and the Pop Group; boogie, a form of post-disco dance music; electro music, a hybrid of electronic music and funk; funk metal (e.g., Living Colour, Faith No More); G-funk, a mix of gangsta rap and funk; Timba, a form of funky Cuban popular dance music; and funk jam (e.g., Phish). Funk samples and breakbeats have been used extensively in hip hop and various forms of electronic dance music, such as house music, old-school rave, breakbeat, and drum and bass. It is also the main influence of go-go, a subgenre associated with funk.

Funk rock

Funk rock is a fusion genre that mixes elements of funk and rock. James Brown and others declared that Little Richard and his mid-1950s road band, The Upsetters, were the first to put the funk in the rock and roll beat, with a biographer stating that their music "spark[ed] the musical transition from fifties rock and roll to sixties funk".Funk rock's earliest incarnation on record was heard in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s by acts such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience (later work / Band of Gypsys), Eric Burdon and War, Redbone, Rick Derringer, David Bowie, Aerosmith, Wild Cherry, Average White Band, Gary Wright, Trapeze, The Bar-Kays, Black Merda, Parliament-Funkadelic, Betty Davis and Mother's Finest. During the 1980s and 1990s funk rock music experienced a surge in popularity, with bands such as Tom Tom Club, Pigbag, INXS, Talking Heads, Devo, the Fine Young Cannibals and Cameo dabbling in the sound. Groups including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Incubus, Mr. Bungle, Primus and Faith No More also notably combined funk rock with metal, punk, hip hop and experimental music, leading to the emergence of the genre known as funk metal or "punk-funk".

Greg Errico

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Joe Bonamassa discography

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Light in the Attic Records

Light in the Attic Records is an independent record label that was established in 2002 in Seattle, Washington by Matt Sullivan. The label is known for its roster of reissue projects and for its distribution catalog. Light in the Attic has re-released work Betty Davis, Serge Gainsbourg, Jim Sullivan, Jane Birkin, Monks and The Free Design. The label has also released albums by contemporary bands The Black Angels and Nicole Willis and The Soul Investigators.

Manatee County, Florida

Manatee County is a county in the U.S. state of Florida. As of the 2010 US Census, the population was 322,833. Manatee County is part of the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton Metropolitan Statistical Area. Its county seat and largest city is Bradenton. The county was created in 1855 and named for the Florida manatee, Florida's official marine mammal.

Features of Manatee County include access to the southern part of the Tampa Bay estuary, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and the Manatee River. About 1.8 percent of Florida's population lives in Manatee County and it ranks 15th among Florida counties in population.

Merl Saunders

Merl Saunders (February 14, 1934 – October 24, 2008) was an American multi-genre musician who played piano and keyboards, favoring the Hammond B-3 console organ.

Neal Schon

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Schon was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame on August 23, 2013. Schon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Journey on April 7, 2017.

Sarah Reed

Sarah Reed (born 1973 in Tucson, Arizona) is an American musician, singer, and guitarist. She is best known as the singer and guitarist for the rock band The Husbands, which she formed and fronted in 2002. The group released two feature-length records on Swami Records and five 7" records. The Husbands toured the United States four times. Their international shows have been in Vancouver, Montreal, Canada, and Tijuana, Mexico. Concurrent with performing in The Husbands, Reed created and led a nine-piece soul-funk cover band, Her Grace The Duchess. They covered artists such as Ike and Tina Turner, Lynn Collins, Betty Davis, and Irma Thomas.

Star Kitty's Revenge

Star Kitty's Revenge is the third studio album by American recording artist Joi, released on March 19, 2002, by Universal Records.

The album received generally positive reviews from music critics upon its release. In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Rolling Stone journalist Jon Caramanica writes that the album "reeked of the unique stank of Atlanta's Dungeon Family collective" and that "for all Kitty's raunch, Joi still takes the opportunity to flex her impressive, Betty Davis-style vocals on more traditional material.".

The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel (TWC) is an American basic cable and satellite television channel owned by The Weather Group, LLC, a subsidiary of Entertainment Studios. The channel's headquarters are located in Atlanta, Georgia. Launched on May 2, 1982, the channel broadcasts weather forecasts and weather-related news and analysis, along with documentaries and entertainment programming related to weather. A sister network, Weatherscan, is a digital cable and satellite service that offers 24-hour automated local forecasts and radar imagery.

The Weather Channel's former parent company, The Weather Company (part of IBM since 2016), also provides forecasts for terrestrial and satellite radio stations, newspapers, mobile apps and websites, including an extensive online presence at The Weather Channel continues to license its brand assets and weather data from IBM.As of September 2018, The Weather Channel was received by approximately 79.128 million households that subscribe to a pay television service throughout the United States.

They Say I'm Different

They Say I'm Different is the second studio album by Betty Davis. It was released in 1974.

Wally Heider Studios

Wally Heider Studios was a recording studio in San Francisco, California between 1969 and 1980, started by recording engineer and studio owner Wally Heider.

In 1978, Heider sold the studio and its name to Filmways, but remained as manager until 1980 when Filmways sold it to a partnership composed of Dan Alexander, Tom Sharples, and Michael Ward. The three partners renamed the business Hyde Street Studios, which is still an operating recording studio as of 2013, now owned solely by Michael Ward.

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