Grammy-winning soul and R&B singer Betty Wright has died at 66. Billboard confirmed Wright’s death at her home in Miami from cancer.
Born Bessie Regina Norris on December 21, 1953 in Miami, Betty Wright began singing in the mid-1950s at a young age with her family’s gospel group, Echoes Of Joy. After the group disbanded in 1965, Wright struck out on her own at age 11 — something she would do with great success in her career — and switched from gospel to R&B. Wright signed her first record contract with local Miami label Deep City Records in 1966 at age 12.
But Betty’s breakthrough came in 1971 with her signature single, “Clean Up Woman,” written by Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke. The song cracked the Top 10 of the Billboard 100 chart and later landed on Wright’s 1972 sophomore album, I Love the Way You Love. Betty’s star steadily rose in the 1970s with hits like “Baby Sitter,” “Let Me Be Your Lovemaker” and “Tonight Is The Night.” In 1975, “Where is the Love” earned Wright the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song.
In 1985, Wright formed her own label, Ms. B Records, and released her album, Mother Wit, which contained another of Betty’s classics, “No Pain (No Gain).” The album gave Wright the distinction of being the first woman to have a gold record on her own label.
While she would be less active as a recording artist from the mid-1990s onwards, her music could still be heard in samples from artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Mary J. Blige, Sublime, Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper and many more. In the 21st century, Wright would appear on Sean Combs’ reality competition Making The Band and also collaborated with The Roots on the 2011 album, Betty Wright: The Movie.