Betty Wright: Give Our Legends Their Flowers.


Birth Name: Bessie Regina Norris

Born: Decemeber 21, 1953 in Miami, Florida

Died: May 10, 2020 in Miami, Florida

Genres: R&B • soul • funk • gospel • disco • hip hop • new jack swing

Years active 1956-2020

Labels: Atco • Alston • TK • Epic • Ms. B

Betty Wright was truly one of a kind. Having an active career since she was two years old until she passed away, Betty is one of the most remarkable musicians to have ever graced the planet. Betty was very versatile in regards to being transparent on R&B/Soul, Gospel, Funk & Disco records, and her usage of the whistle register made her a prominent force in the music industry. She’s actually one of the First Ladies in music to utilize the whistle register, which is a technique also used by iconic artists like Minnie Riperton, Chanté Moore, Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande. Betty deserves her flowers alone for being heavily sampled by generations following her.

Our girl needs no introduction! Let’s get into paying homage to one of the best to ever do it. Ladies & Gentlemen, I present to you the recipient of Give Our Legends Their Flowers: Betty Wright.

The 50s:

Albums released: N/A

Betty’s professional career began at the very young age of two years old when her siblings formed a gospel group by the name of Echoes of Joy. The toddler was featured on the group’s first album and performed with the group until 1965, where she transitioned from gospel to secular music under the name “Betty Wright.”

The 60s:

Albums released: My First Time Around

Once the group broke up, Betty began singin in local talent shows until she was spotted by a record label executive based in Miami and eventually was signed to the Deep City Records label at the age of 12. The teenager had a hand in discovering other locals like George & Gwen McCrae (from Rockin’ Chair).

In 1968, the singer released her debut album My First Time Around at the age of 14. Produced by Brad Shapiro & Steve Alaimo, the album gave Betty her first hit single, titled Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do, peaking at fifteen on the R&B charts and thirty-three on the pop charts respectively.

The 70s:

Albums released: I Love The Way You Love, Hard To Stop, Danger High Voltage, Explosion, This Time For Real, Live, Travelin’ In The Wright Circle.

Betty released her signature song Clean Up Woman, which became a top two hit on the R&B charts for eight weeks, a top ten hit on the pop charts for 14 weeks and sold over a million copies. The song was featured on her album I Love the Way You Love.

Betty continued to drop classic after classic including songs like Let Me Be Your Lovemaker, Baby Sitter, Tonight Is The Night, Secretary, Slip and Do It, Dance with Me and Is It You, Girl? 

However, it was the 1978 LIVE version of Tonight’s The Night that made Betty’s legacy solidified for sure. The song attributed to her first sexual experiences, and peaked at number eleven on the charts. Rightfully so though!

One song that I loved about Betty is her songwriting! She co-wrote and produced All This Love That I’m Givin’ for Gwen McCrae, who was one of the artists that she discovered. 

The 80s:

Albums released: Betty Wright, Wright Back At You, Sevens, Mother Wit, 4u2njoy.

Betty’s self-titled album was released on Epic Records after signing with the label. The Stevie Wonder penned song What Are You Gonna Do With It, was a moderate hit on the charts, peaking at forty-two. 

In 1985, Betty formed her own label, Ms. B Records, which she made history with for being the first Black female artist to score a gold album on her own label. The album in question is 1987’s Mother Wit. Mother Wit is one of my favorite albums from Betty, especially the amazing After the Pain. 

Betty’s No Pain, No Gain was a hit R&B single and that peaked in the top twenty on the R&B charts at fourteen. A CLASSIC RECORD!!

The 90s:

Albums released: Passion & ComPassion, All The Way Live, B-Attitudes

Betty collaborated with Grayson Hugh on a remake of the Champaign’s hit single How ‘Bout Us, and arranged the harmonies for Gloria Estefan’s Coming Out of the Dark, which was a number one hit in 1991.

The 00s:

Albums released: Fit for A King

Betty collaborated with many artists in the 2000s like Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, Trick Daddy, Joss Stone and Lil’ Wayne.

One of my favorite collaborations was Playing With Fire with Lil’ Wayne that was originally on his 2008 Tha Carter III album. Built around a sample and interpolation of The Rolling Stones’ Play With Fire, the song was very similar to the original version and Ruth Copeland’s cover which prompted The Rolling Stones to sue the singer for copyright infringement and was eventually removed from the track list and replaced with another song. It’s a shame because it is ironically my favorite song from Wayne and I love Betty’s remarkable vocals on it as well.

The 10s:

Albums released: Betty Wright: The Movie, Living…Love…Lies.

Betty Wright: The Movie was the legend’s first album in a decade, and the singer collaborated with The Roots on the album. It is truly an amazing work of art that needs to be appreciated more from the 2010s decade. 

Betty collaborated with artists like Ace Hood, Rick Ross, Kanye West. Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar and DJ Khaled on their projects in the mid to late 2010s. You want to pay homage to the OGs by introducing them to newer generations!

The 20s:

In early 2020, TV One released an Unsung episode on Betty Wright and her impeccable legacy. I personally don’t think she’s “unsung,” but I loved the episode for honing in on her amazing career.

The legendary Betty Wright passed away on May 10, 2020 from Cancer, and was a major loss to her adoring fans.

Betty Wright will always be remembered for being an amazing vocalist for six-decade career. The Miami legend has been sampled and covered by so many artists who treasure and love Betty’s catalog. Everyone from Beyoncé, DJ Quick, Color Me Badd, Lady Gaga, Latto, Dusty Springfield, Gwen McCrae to Aaliyah, Betty’s music and her legacy lives on so beautifully. As she was.

– MW

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