The magnificent, legendary, whistle register songstress who inspired my love for singing and harmony vocals Ms. Betty Wright died from cancer yesterday - May 10, 2020 - at her home in Miami. She was 66.
We’ve gathered some interesting and inspirational facts about this visionary woman, singer, artist, mentor and business guru.
Many people are unaware that Betty Wright mentored several young singers and did vocal production for such artists as Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez and Joss Stone. Betty Wright was nominated for a 2005 Grammy Award in the Best Pop Album category for producing Joss Stone's album Mind Body & Soul.
Several of her works have been sampled over the years by hip hop, rock and R&B musicians. The riff from "Clean Up Woman" has been sampled by acts such as Afrika Bambaataa, SWV, Mary J. Blige, Sublime, Willie D, and Chance the Rapper.
Her first hit "Girls Can't Do What Guys Do" was sampled for Beyoncé's "Upgrade U" In 1992. Betty Wright sued the producers of Color Me Badd's hit "I Wanna Sex You Up" after they used the sample of her live version without clearance and permission, she sued for royalties. The singing legend won her case, taking 35% of royalties for writing the song.
Bessie Regina Norris was better known by her stage name Betty Wright, an American soul and R&B singer, songwriter and background vocalist, Betty rose to fame in the 1970s with hits such as "Clean Up Woman" and "Tonight Is the Night". She was also prominent in regard to the use of whistle register - the whistle register (also called the whistle tone or whistle note) is the highest register of the human voice, it reaches above the falsetto register. This register has a specific physiological production that is different from the other registers, it is similar to a whistle.
Born in Miami, Florida in 1953, Betty Wright was the youngest of seven children. She began her professional career at the age of two when her siblings formed the Echoes of Joy gospel group. Betty contributed to the vocals on their first album, which was released in 1956. Wright and her siblings performed together until she was 11 years old.
Before the group's break-up, she was already using the name Betty Wright. After the group separated ways, Betty decided to switch musical styles and went from gospel to R & B, and was soon spotted by a local Miami record label owner, who signed her to her first label - Deep City Records – aged just 12. She released the singles "Thank You Baby" and "Paralyzed", which gave her local fame in Miami.
As a teenager, she was responsible for discovering other local talents such as George and Gwen McCrae, they were signed with the Alston Records label TK Records, part of Henry Stone's recording and distribution company. She released "Pure Love" at the age of 16.
A year later, Wright released her signature song "Clean Up Woman", written by Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke when she was 17. The record reached number two on the R&B charts, where it stayed for eight weeks. It crossed over to the pop charts, peaking at number six and staying on the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks. It sold over 1 million copies and was certified gold in 1971.
Betty Wright made history as the first black female artist to score a gold album on her own label, when her 1987 album, Mother Wit achieved that certification The album was notable for the come-back hits "No Pain, No Gain," and "After the Pain" which returned her to the top 20 on the R&B chart for the first time in a decade.
One of our favourites Betty Wright songs:
Wright, Greenberg and Mangini also produced two tracks on Tom Jones's 2008 album 24 Hours: a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "The Hitter" and "More Than Memories", written by Stax legend Carla Thomas. The trio also produced the debut album by Diane Birch
in 2009. In December 2010, Wright was given another Grammy Award nomination for the song "Go" on the Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. The album Betty Wright: The Movie, credited to Betty Wright and the Roots, produced by Wright and Ahmir Questlove Thompson was released in 2011 on her own label Ms. B Records/S-Curve Records. Betty Wright: The Movie also included collaborations with Joss Stone, Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne and Lenny Williams.
Betty Wright was a legend who inspired millions with her unique vocals and first class writing skills that captured the experiences noone talked about. As a business woman she was a pioneer and she will continue to shine through her great work with others.