Betty Wright, Grammy-Winning R&B and Soul Singer, Dies at 66

    Betty Wright, the iconic R&B and soul singer known for hits such as ‘Clean Up Woman’ and ‘Where Is the Love?’, has died at the age of 66, TMZ reports.

    While the cause of death was not immediately disclosed, the news was confirmed by Wright’s niece, who wrote on Twitter: “Sleep in peace aunty Betty Wright. Fly high angel.”. Steve Greenberg of S-Curve Records later told the New York Times Wright had been diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2019.

    Wright was born Bessie Regina Norris in 1953 in Miami, the youngest of seven children, and started singing in her family’s gospel group the Echoes of Joy. She released her first album at the age of 15 in 1968, with the single ‘Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do’ becoming her first Top 40 hit. ‘Clean Up Woman’, written by Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke, came three years later, reaching No 6 in the US charts. The track was later sampled by the likes of Mary J. Blige (‘Real Woman’) and Chance the Rapper (‘Favorite Song’). In 1976, Wright was awarded her first and only Grammy for Best R&B Song for her second biggest single, ‘Where is the Love?’. She continued recording singles and albums throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

    Wright also had a prominent career as a backing vocalist, singing for the likes of Stevie Wonder (who also produced her 1981 single ‘What Are You Going to Do With It’), David Byrne, Peter Tosh, Gloria Estefan, Jimmy Cliff, Stephen Stills, Alice Cooper, Jennifer Lopez, and many others. Unafraid to jump between genres, she also frequently made appearances on records by hip-hop artists, including Diddy, Nas, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and the Game. In 2011, she collaborated with The Roots for her final studio album, Betty Wright: The Movie. In 2016, she was featured on DJ Khaled, Kendrick Lamar, and Big Sean’s ‘Big Key’.

    Wright spent much of her later life as a producer and mentor to younger artists. “I loved being around Ms Betty Wright,” John Legend wrote on Twitter. “She was always so loving and giving to younger artists. Always engaged, always relevant. She will be missed.” Chuck D, Snoop Dogg, DJ Khaled, and more, also took to social media to pay their respects.

    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis
    Konstantinos Pappis is a writer, journalist, and music editor at Our Culture. His work has also appeared in Pitchfork, GIGsoup, and other publications. He currently lives in Athens, Greece.

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