Legendary funk music pioneer Betty Davis passed away on February 9, aged 77. Between 1964 and 1975, she recorded a catalog of profoundly influential music and embodied an iconic and powerful image of black female empowerment, in charge of her sexuality. In fact, the unapologetic sexual politics of her songs helped her gain a cult following and her liberating attitudes paved the way for many artists that followed, from Prince to Beyonce.
In 1989, her former husband Miles Davis wrote: “If Betty were singing today, she’d be something like Madonna… She was the beginning of all that when she was singing as Betty Davis. She was just ahead of her time.” It’s worth mentioning that Betty Davis had a deep impact on the music of Miles Davis, introducing him to such artists as Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix.
We remember her by revisiting one of her signature songs, “They Say I’m Different,” the title track from her 1974 LP. Critic/historian Steve Millward said of this record: “[it] lived up to its name with a candor and sexual aggression never before seen from a female singer, and seldom since.”
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