Soul and R&B singer Betty Wright has died. She was 66.
The acclaimed vocalist, known for hit songs “Let Me Be Your Lovemaker” and “Clean Up Woman,” lost her battle with cancer and passed away at her home in Miami on May 10, according to Billboard.
Wright had first been diagnosed with endometrial cancer in the fall of 2019, Steve Greenberg, president of her label S-Curve Records, told The New York Times.
Born Bessie Regina Norris in 1953, Wright kicked off her career as a young singer in a gospel group in her native Florida. She released her first solo album, My First Time Around, in 1968 at age 15. But it wouldn’t be until 1972 that she achieved a major hit with her signature song, “Clean Up Woman,” which peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100.
The singer would go on to release a slew of singles and albums over the ’70s and ’80s, including the 1981 song “What Are You Gonna Do With it,” which was composed by Stevie Wonder. In 1985, Wright set up Miss B Records and became the first black woman to achieve a gold-certified album on her own label with 1988’s Mother Wit.
Later in her career, Wright ventured into production and songwriting for other singers, including Gloria Estefan and Joss Stone. She also appeared on the MTV reality show Making the Band as a vocal coach for the then-newly formed girl group Danity Kane.
In 2011, the singer teamed up with hip hop collective The Roots on their joint album Betty Wright: The Movie. The record featured collaborations with rappers Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne, as well as vocals from Joss Stone. A track from the record, “Surrender,” was subsequently nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Performance in 2011.
Since Wright’s passing, musicians such as The Roots’ Questlove, Patti Labelle, Skip Marley and Ledisi have paid tribute to the singer.
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The powerful Betty Wright. It’s not enough to dub her the First Lady of Henry Stone’s Miami empire. In working on her last album I slowly realized you can’t even be an artist in Miami without runnin into her. And if you run into her? Make room cause she is gonna wind up on your album (if youre really not careful you will wind up on HER record lol) Her powerhouse singing abilities haven’t been praised enough (that Mariah whistle high octave sound? Betty was flaunting that skill LONG ago). Her down to earth sista girl persona was FAR from the posh Motown charm school of the day. Wright hit jackpot in singing “grown folk” topics that her contemporaries weren’t able to sing and capitalize on. I mean at 17 her much sampled “Clean Up Woman” & her legendary singles “Baby Sitter” “Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do” “Secretary” “Slip & Do it” pushed the envelope FAR & still found an audience—-that was not an easy feat for black women in the 70s writing & singing songs with the freedom that men could flaunt and not have to be looked down upon or judged—-Millie Jackson paid a price for that realness. Marlena Shaw paid a price. Linda Clifford paid a price. Betty Davis wasn’t even granted the freedom to step to the counter to pay that price!! So it was a slippery slope talking about your first time or being the other woman or callin the shots in the relationship. Not to mention being her own label—-I learned so much about her career while working with her—I had no clue in the early 80s she owned and operated Ms B records (she went gold w 87s Classic “No Pain No Gain” 1st black woman to hit that feat as label ceo. and occasionally RAPPED!—-she never let anything hold her back or limit her. That was her spirit. She KNEW who she was and carried herself as a royal. Her most hilarious story was Stevie Wonder calling an impromptu 1am background singing session w Walter & Eddie of the Ojays, Michael Jackson & Betty for his remake of“All I Do” 🤯 —she was a staple at our jam sessions & brought the house down everytime. She will be missed. Rest In Melody Queen Wright.
#BettyWright was one of the very best to ever do this thing called music! A beautiful spirit who will truly be missed! Sending my love and prayers to all of her family, friends and fans! ♥️ pic.twitter.com/fdy0qnixqj
— Patti LaBelle (@MsPattiPatti) May 11, 2020
Rest in power to a legend, Betty Wright. Our beloved aunty, mentor, and vocal coach ❤️🙏🏽She stood by me every step of the way. Taught us so much. She will be missed. pic.twitter.com/QTcZYh7N0M
— Skip Marley (@SkipMarley) May 10, 2020
Thank you for being a master teacher, a friend and one of the greatest female soul singers in our industry. You were so much more than your music. We were blessed to be around royalty. Thank you. I will never forget. 👑 #BettyWright ! pic.twitter.com/CHQL1S5FRy
— ledisi (@ledisi) May 10, 2020
RIP, Betty Wright. Revisit Betty Wright: The Movie below: