Betty Davis, Funk Music Trailblazer & Miles Davis’ Ex-Wife, Dead At 77

Portrait of American Funk, Soul, and R&B singer singer Betty Davis (nee Mabry), New York, New York, 1969. (Photo by Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)

The music world has lost a pioneering artist.

Betty Davis, a groundbreaking funk and soul singer once married to Miles Davis, died on Wednesday at age 77.

A close friend confirmed the sad news to Rolling Stone, and the Allegheny County communications director told the publication that Davis passed away from natural causes. She reportedly resided in the Pittsburgh region for many years up until her death.

Though Davis recorded the bulk of her music between 1964 and 1975 and only peaked at No. 66 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart with her song “If I’m in Luck I Might Get Picked Up,” her influence went on to last decades. She is believed to have opened the doors for boundary-pushing icons like Prince, Madonna and Janet Jackson.

Davis was also known for the tracks “Get Ready for Betty” and “It’s My Life,” and she penned the Chamber Brothers song “Uptown (to Harlem).”

In 1968, she and jazz legend Miles Davis tied the knot. He was 19 years her senior and reportedly credited her for introducing him to the music of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, which played a role in his later work. They divorced a year later and she went on to release three albums in the early-to-mid ’70s.

After being dropped from her record label in 1975 and grieving the 1980 death of her father, Davis went on to spend decades as a recluse. In 2017, she resurfaced in the 2017 documentary “Betty: They Say I’m Different” and reflected to the New York Times a year later why she retreated from the public eye.

“When I was told that it was over, I just accepted it. And nobody else was knocking at my door,” she said at the time.

— Erin Biglow

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