She had been battling cancer for some time
Veteran soul singer Betty Wright passed away at her home in Miami on Sunday, after losing her battle with cancer. She was 66 years old.
Born Bessie Regina Norris on 21 December 1953, Wright started out – like so many soul vocalists before and since – singing gospel in church. Indeed, her first appearance on vinyl came at the tender age of three, singing "backing vocals" on an album by her older siblings' gospel group, Echoes Of Joy.
By the time she was 12, she'd already moved into soul/R&B and released her first two singles on local label Deep City Records, and her first album came out when she was just 14. Over the course of her career, she would go on to release 16 studio albums and two live sets, with her biggest and best-known hits being Clean Up Woman (1973), Shoorah! Shoorah! (1974) and Where Is The Love? (1975).
However, it wasn't just as a performer that she made an impact. Associated for many years with Miami's TK label, she was instrumental in discovering disco artists George and Gwen McCrae and Peter Brown, and later worked as a vocal producer for the likes of Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez and Joss Stone, as well as appearing on US talent show Making The Band as a vocal coach.
Wright's work – particularly Clean Up Woman – has been widely sampled in hip-hop and R&B circles. Afrika Bambaataa, Beyonce, SWV, Mary J Blige, Sweet Tee, Chance The Rapper and Ms Dynamite are among those who owe her a debt of musical gratitude, while she was awarded a 35% royalty on Color Me Badd's 1991 hit I Wanna Sex You Up following a successful court case.
Over the course of her long career, Wright also worked with Angie Stone, Snoop Dogg, The Roots and Lil Wayne, duetted with Steve Tyler of Aerosmith, opened for Bob Marley, received several Grammy nominations in both performance and production categories, starred on 2012's Jool's Holland's Hootenanny and, in 1988, became the first female black artist to have a US No 1 album (Mother Wit) on her own record label.
She is survived by three daughters and a son, and as ever, our thoughts are with her family and friends. RIP a true legend.
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