Betty Davis, groundbreaking funk singer, dead at 77

Betty Davis, a groundbreaking funk singer and former wife of jazz legend Miles Davis, died Wednesday. She was 77.

>> Read more trending news

Danielle Maggio, a close friend of the singer, confirmed the musician’s death to Rolling Stone. Amie Downs, communications director for Allegheny County where Davis lived, told the magazine that Davis’ cause of death was natural causes.

“It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of Betty Davis, a multitalented music influencer and pioneer rock star, singer, songwriter, and fashion icon,” Connie Portis, another longtime friend of Davis, said in a statement. “Most of all, Betty was a friend, aunt, niece, and beloved member of her community of Homestead, Pennsylvania, and of the worldwide community of friends and fans. At a time to be announced, we will pay tribute to her beautiful, bold, and brash persona. Today we cherish her memory as the sweet, thoughtful, and reflective person she was. … There is no other.”

Betty Davis’ presence on the music charts was minimal, Billboard reported. She had only two singles crack Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Sings chart -- 1973′s “If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up,” which peaked at No. 66; and the 1975 single “Shut Off the Lights,” which finished at No. 97.

She was born Betty Mabry and grew up in rural North Carolina, and her earliest musical memories included her grandmother “boogying to Elmore James,” according to Billboard.

The first song she wrote was “Bake a Cake of Love,” when she was 12, the website reported. After spending time in Pittsburgh, Betty Davis moved to New York City when she was 16 to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology.

As Betty Mabry, she released the 1964 single, “Get Ready for Betty,” Rolling Stone reported. She wrote “Uptown (to Harlem)” for the Chambers Brothers, and befriended Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix and Hugh Masekela. In 1968, she married Miles Davis, according to Rolling Stone.

The marriage lasted one year.

Davis abruptly left the music industry in the mid-1970s, moving to the Pittsburgh area where she lived for the next 40 years, Rolling Stone reported.

“When I was told that it was over, I just accepted it,” Davis told The New York Times in a 2018 interview. “And nobody else was knocking at my door.”