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Funk pioneer Betty Davis has died aged 77

Davis was renowned for being a visionary singer, songwriter, producer, and fashion icon

  • Aneesa Ahmed | Image: Robert Brenner
  • 10 February 2022
Funk pioneer Betty Davis has died aged 77

Betty Davis, raw funk pioneer who trailblazed the genre in the 1970s, dies at age 77.

The funk legend died of natural causes according to her close friend, Danielle Maggio and the Allegheny county communications director, Amie Downs, Rolling Stone reported.

According to a press statement, Davis passed away in her hometown of Homestead, Pennsylvania, where she had resided since she was ten years old. Davis took part in talent contests at the Homestead Community Center, went to Park Place AME Church, and graduated from Homestead High School before pursuing modelling and music jobs.

Davis’ longtime friend Connie Portis said in a statement Wednesday: “It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of Betty Davis, a multi-talented music influencer and pioneer rock star, singer, songwriter, and fashion icon.

“Most of all, Betty was a friend, aunt, niece, and beloved member of her community of Homestead, Pennsylvania, and of the worldwide community of friends and fans.

"At a time to be announced, we will pay tribute to her beautiful, bold, and brash persona. Today we cherish her memory as the sweet, thoughtful, and reflective person she was…There is no other.”

Betty Davis was the second wife of jazz legend Miles Davis — despite the fact that their marriage barely lasted a year, Betty is credited with introducing Miles to the era's rock music.

Betty Davis was a renowned artist and key character in New York's late-60s music scene, known for her openly sensual lyrics and raw, passionate voice.

She released three albums in the 1970s – 1973’s 'Betty Davis' (released in 1873), 'They Say I’m Different' (released in 1974) and 'Nasty Gal' (released in 1975).

'Nasty Gal' gained her a huge amount of success and it has gone down in history for being ahead of its time for its unbridled explicitness and sexual confidence.

She was also very involved with New York's club and socialite scene, as she moved to the city when she was 17 to study fashion. During her adolescence in the city, she worked as a club manager and mixed with figures as Andy Warhol, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and Eric Clapton.

Though she kept his name, Davis never wanted to operate in Miles Davis' shadow. “I wanted my music to be taken seriously,” she said later. “I wasn’t going to turn into a Yoko Ono or a Linda McCartney.”

Her work later influenced a new generation of musicians, including Janelle Monae, an Afro-futurist vocalist who Davis as “one of the godmothers of redefining how Black women in music can be viewed” who “opened up a lot of doors for artists like myself.”

More recently, Davis’ music was featured in television series such as Orange Is the New Black, Girlboss, Mixed-ish, and High Fidelity.

Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter

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