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Hard Funk Pioneer Betty Davis Has Died at the Age of 77

Hard Funk Pioneer Betty Davis Has Died at the Age of 77

Betty Davis (Photo Courtesy: Native Films)
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NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess) – Betty Davis, American funk and soul singer has passed at the age of 77. A bold funk singer, model, and singer/songwriter of the 60s and 70s, she’s been credited for inspiring husband Miles Davis’ fusion of jazz.

Born Betty Mabry in Durham, she moved to New York in the early sixties and enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology. She worked as a model for Seventeen and Glamour and would meet Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, and other musicians. She was also releasing her own work and wrote “Uptown (to Harlem)” for the Chambers Brothers.

She dated Eric Clapton and Robert Palmer but was best known for her time with Miles Davis. It was a brief pairing. Davis alleged [she denied] she had an affair with Hendrix. The relationship didn’t last but her influence on Davis would. He would cite her for opening him up to the sounds of Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone among others, leading to the seventies album “Bitches Brew,” which helped launch the genre of jazz fusion.

“His world was progressive jazz, plus he was a lover of classical music, so there were lots of things he hadn’t picked up on,” Betty Davis told the Guardian in 2010.

Davis remained a cult figure as a singer, due in part to her sexual lyrics and performance style, which were both controversial for the time. Banned from US TV due to her aggressive stage nature, Davis said in an interview with JET magazine, “I don’t wear that many clothes when I work. It’s hard for me to work in a lot of clothes. But because of how I’m built, you see a lot of skin. Skin to a man, I guess, is sexy.” Carlos Santana recalled Betty in an interview with The Guardian as “indomitable – she couldn’t be tamed. Musically, philosophically, and physically, she was extreme and attractive.”

Davis passed Wednesday morning after a brief illness, according to Danielle Maggio, an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh. The oft times referred “Madonna before Madonna” retired to Pittsburgh in the late seventies where she lived a quiet life until her death.

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