Betty Davis

Betty Davis — aka Betty O. Mabry (born July 26, 1945) — is an American soul-funk singer from Durham, N.C.


She was born Betty O. Mabry on July 26, 1945, in Durham, N.C. Her earliest influences were the bluesmen B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, and Elmore James, who she listened to on her grandmother’s farm. At 16, she moved to New York City, where she mixed among artists and bohemians in Greenwich Village. She found work as a model and did photo spreads for Seventeen, Ebony, and Glamour.

In 1964, Mabry released her first single, the self-written “Get Ready For Betty” (b/w “I’m Gonna Get My Baby Back”), on producer Don Costa’s DCP International. That same year, she and Roy Arlington cut a single as Betty and Roy: “Everybody Makes a Mistake Sometimes” (b/w “That’s Good Enough”), released on soul-press Safice. She followed those with the 1968 Columbia single “Live, Love, Learn” (b/w “It’s My Life”), two originals arranged by Hugh Masekela. The Chamber Brothers recorded her song “Uptown (to Harlem)” for a 1967 Columbia a-side.

In the spring of 1968, Mabry started dating Miles Davis, who she introduced to her friends on the soul-psych scene, including Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. That September, her and Davis married. Her likeness appears on his February 1969 release Filles de Kilimanjaro. Though their marriage lasted less than two years, she kept his surname. The title of his 1970 release Bitches Brew is purportedly in reference to her. Betty later claimed that he wanted to call it Witches Brew, but changed it at her suggestion.[1]

In 1969, Betty Davis recorded demos that were sent to several labels, but no deal transpired. (The material was issued nearly five decades later as The Columbia Years, 1968–1969.) After a stint in London, she headed back stateside, initially to record with Santana. Instead, she recorded a clutch of originals with a group of west coast funk musicians.


Discography:

  • “Get Ready for Betty” / “I’m Gonna Get My Baby Back” (1964 • Betty Mabry)
  • Betty Davis (1973)
  • They Say I’m Different (1974)
  • Nasty Gal (1975)
  • Hangin’ Out in Hollywood (1995, recorded 1979)
  • Is It Love or Desire (2009, recorded 1976)
  • The Columbia Years 1968-1969 (2016)

Sources:


References:

  1. The Daily Maverick: “The woman who introduced Miles to Hendrix”

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