On Betty Davis

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On Betty Davis

Postby uptownboy » Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:21 am

While jazz fans cite the low-flying blast of Miles Davis’ horn riding down Electric Avenue in the 1970′s as a pivotal period in Black music, few folks are really down with the man’s greatest inspiration on the road to fusion. However, when scenester Betty Mabry swooped down on him in a silent way while shaking her bitches brew in 1966, she lit a fire under the king of cool.

Marrying dude two years later, during their time together Betty introduced him to her homeboys Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone as well as a whole other world of funk and fashion. Yet, while she had been both model and muse to the brilliant trumpeter, it wasn’t until after their divorce in 1969 that the newly named Betty Davis was able to step outside of Miles’ musical shadow and do her own thing.

Beginning her career as a songwriter, she wrote Uptown for the Chambers Brothers and later penned some funky songs that the Commodores recorded for the demo that got them signed to Motown Records. Yet, when Berry Gordy told Davis she’d have to sell her publishing as well, she took the songs back and decided to record them herself.

Coming out at a time when everyone except Tina Turner was still wearing supper club approved sequined dresses, Betty Davis opted to be as raunchy as she wanted to be. Beginning with her self-titled 1973 joint featuring bassist Larry Graham, drummer Greg Errico (both veterans of Sly & the Family Stone), as well as background singers the Pointer Sisters and Sylvester, this chick was raw like sushi.

As Betty wailed aggressively on If I’m in Luck I Might Get Picked Up and Game is my Middle Name, this North Carolina native was aurally opening doors for the future of fem-funk. Everyone from LaBelle to Chaka Khan, Joi to Santigold owes her a little credit.

The following year, in 1974, her sophomore disc They Say I’m Different included the rousing title track as well the gutbucket anthem He Was a Big Freak. In 1975, Davis released the equally impressive Nasty Gal album, but after her last album, recorded for Island Records, was shelved in 1979, Davis walked away from the spotlight.

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