For Black History Month we honored great legends like Angela Davis and Shirley Chisholm, while Black history month may have ended Woman’s history month is just getting started. The last pioneer we wanted to honor is Mrs. Betty Davis, a 70s funk rock musician, the true embodiment of Freedom and JUX, representing what it means to be black, feminine, masculine and an artist who is ‘bout her shit!
In 1945, Betty Marby was born in Durham, North Carolina and raised in Pittsburgh. She made her name in the streets of New York after starting at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) at age 17 in the 60s. There, she caroused in the night life meeting people like Andy Warhol, Sly Stone, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix while supporting herself as a model and club manager. It’s safe to say, that this time influenced her sound and vibe.
Betty, recorded few songs and wrote for musicians including the hit Chambers Brothers record, “Uptown to Harlem,” before becoming Betty Davis with her marriage to legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis for less than a year. Although he was almost 20 years older, she inspired his sound, music and often collaborated until their divorce; she moved to the west coast and she began her own career. Debuting her self-titled album Betty Davis in 1973.
Davis released three unapologetic raw albums, she is the definition of ahead of her time because they honestly all slap! With songs like They Say I’m Different, Nasty Gal, which were also names of her albums, she “wrote about love, really, and all the levels of love,” she told New York Times. She embraced her sexuality like no other woman before her, she growled, moaned and screamed gracefully blending the music of her era (funk, and rock) birthing the first funk-rock artist. “When I was writing about it, nobody was writing about it. But now everybody’s writing about it. It’s like a cliché,” she added to the NYT.
Haha It’s funny to me how all of a sudden it’s ‘OK’ for women to be themselves. To tell you the truth I don’t care what society says about me. I have half a mind to walk down the street with as much or as little clothing as I choose to. It’s all about vibes and the way you feel, the way you view yourself, be happy, be you. Oh and if anyone ever calls you a nasty gal, just nod and say Betty taught you!
Betty was the raw truth of freedom, but her openly sexual content and sound wasn’t embraced and ultimately drowned by misogyny. Eventually she disappeared from the music scene after her last album didn’t break. While she didn’t continue her journey, her influence reached countless artist including Joyce Kennedy, Chaka Khan, and the remarkable trio of Patti LaBelle, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendry and even artist of today like Erykah Badu and Janelle Monáe. No doubt that Betty was a pioneer that knew the power a black women with a big voice who expressed herself unapologetically in every way she knew how.
Read about where Betty is now and more about her influence. Let us know in comments if you listened and loved her sound/presence as much as we did.
MCQueen + PHENIX
PHOTOS : Zoda Carey