The legendary R&B and soul singer Betty Wright has died at 66, as TMZ reports. A cause of death has not been revealed.
Wright was born in Miami in 1953, and she started singing at an early age as part of her family’s gospel group the Echoes Of Joy. By her teenage years, she was already appearing on other artists’ recordings as a backup singer. She released her debut album, My First Time Around, in 1968 when she was only 14 years old. Her first minor hit, “Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do,” came off of that album, but her signature song would come a few years later. “Clean Up Woman” was released in 1971 and peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
She’d put out albums throughout the 70s whose singles would be regularly featured on the R&B charts. In 1975, she won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for “Where Is The Love.” In 1981, she moved over to Epic Records and released two albums with them. On one of them, she collaborated with Stevie Wonder on “What Are You Gonna Do With It.” But in 1985, after being burned by her label, she formed her own record company, Ms. B Records, and her own music publishing company.
Throughout the next two decades, Wright would continue to release her own solo material, and she would also work in the background on songs by Erykah Badu, David Byrne, Jennifer Lopez, Joss Stone, and Lil Wayne, in addition to being sampled on many rap and hip-hop songs. In 2011, on her first album of new songs in almost 10 years, she teamed up with the Roots for Betty Wright: The Movie, which featured guest appearances by Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg. In 2016, she appeared as a guest vocalist on a DJ Khaled song opposite Kendrick Lamar.
“[Singing] is what I do,” she said in an interview with the Miami New Times in 1993. “If I didn’t make a living from it I’d be on a corner somewhere, singing real good. I gig when they pay me, I gig when they don’t pay me. That’s probably why I don’t live in Beverly Hills.”