Betty Wright: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Music Legend

Her influence was wider than most people realize.

Iconic R&B and soul singer Betty Wright passed away on Mother’s Day (May 10). In a career that spanned more than five decades, Wright was loved by fans and admired by her peers. Born Bessie Regina Norris in 1953, here are five things you might not have known about her life.

  1. Her career got off to an early start

    Wright began her singing career performing professionally with her family’s gospel group, the Echoes of Joy, at age 2. At 11, Wright began singing R&B at local talent shows in her native Miami. One year later, she signed with Deep City Records, releasing her first studio album at 14.

  2. She was the godmother of disco

    Wright's 1971 megahit, “Clean Up Woman,” is credited for anticipating the transition from funk music to disco. That song peaked at No. 6 on the singles chart.

  3. Wright was more than just a singer

    In addition to singing, Wright was also an amazing songwriter, arranger and producer. The long list of artists she worked with included Jennifer Lopez, Erykah Badu and Keyshia Cole

    She was also the inspiration of several singers, such as Mary J. Blige, who sampled “Clean Up Woman.” The cut has been sampled by other artists including SWV, Sublime, Willie D, Afrika Bambaattaa, and Chance the Rapper

    Wright launched an independent label in the 1980s, under which she released the album "Mother Wit."  That album went gold and marked the first time an African American female singer had that achievement.

  4. She has deep ties to reggae

    Wright opened for reggae legend Bob Marley for some shows while on his 1979 Survival Tour. She was married to Noel “King Sporty” Williams, a Jamaican musician who co-wrote the song “Buffalo Soldier” that Marley made famous.

  5. Wright’s son was killed on Christmas Day

    The singer’s 21-year-old son Patrick Parker was shot and killed on December 25, 2005. His life was taken in a dispute at a party in South Florida. Parker was one of Wright’s five children.

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