Grammy Award winning Soul singer Betty Wright died on May 8, 2020 at her home in Miami, Florida as a result of cancer.
Aretha Franklin was THE Queen of Soul but Betty Wright was the Queen of Miami Soul. She was known as much for her vocal range as she was the music itself.
Bessie Regina Norris was born on December 21, 1953; the youngest of seven children in a musical family. At the time she was the youngest singer heard on a record when a two year old Bessie joined her family’s Gospel group Echoes of Joy on an album.
Her solo career began at age eleven when she began performing R&B music in local talent shows. It was only a year later that she was signed to a record deal with a full length album release at age 14. Her first hit song was “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do”.
Still in her teens, “Clean Up Woman” became her first million selling hit song and her signature song. That was the beginning of a string of hits for Wright who later became the first female artist of colour to reach gold status with a self released album – “Mother Wit”. An album is certified gold by the RIAA – Recording Industry Association of America – when it sells 100,000 copies in the United States.
Along with her own hit songs and albums, Wright provided backup vocals for numerous artists including Erykah Badu, Regina Belle, David Byrne, Jimmy Cliff, Alice Cooper, Gloria Estefan, Stephen Stills, Peter Tosh, and Stevie Wonder.
Her final album “Betty Wright: The Movie” features all original songs co-written by Wright and featured guest appearances by Joss Stone, Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, and Lenny Williams.
She was also a vocal coach, writer, producer, and engineer who worked with many other artists including Gloria Estefan, Kelly Clarkson, Keyshia Cole, Destiny’s Child, Michael Jackson, Tom Jones, Jennifer Lopez, and Joss Stone. She was a vocal coach on the Sean Comb’s show “Making the Bank”.
A very busy lady, Wright has collaborated with Sean Combs, Ace Hood, Big Sean, DJ Khaled, the Game, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Nas, Rick Ross, and Angie Stone.
Mary J Blige, Afrika Bambaataa, Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, Sublime, and SWV were among the artists who sampled Wright’s music in their singles.
Her music appears in dozens of film and television productions including “The Duece”, “Atlanta”, “The Dream of a Life”, “The Mo’Nique Show”, “The Kids are All Right”, “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, “The Bernie Mac Show”, “Speed 2: Cruise Control”, and a number of reality competition music shows. She also appeared in an episode of “Magic City” as a lead singer.
Wright is survived by her children – Aisha, Patrice, Chaka, and Asher.
Betty Wright discography:
“My First Time Around”
“I Love the Way You Love”
“Hard to Stop”
“Danger High Voltage”
“This Time for Real”
“Betty Wright Live”
“Betty Travelin’ in the Wright Circle”
“Back at You”
“Passion & Compassion”
“Fit for a King”
“Betty Wright: The Movie”
feature photo credit: By Loer48 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90074336