Betty Wright was an American soul and R&B singer, songwriter, and background vocalist who rose to fame in the 1970s with hits such as “Clean up Woman” and “Tonight is the Night.” She was also prominent in regard to the use of whistle register. Wright passed away on the morning of May 10. Wright operated her record label, Mrs. B records and her own publishing company, Miami Spice.
Betty Wright Biography
Betty Wright was born Bessie Regina Norris in Miami, Florida. She was the youngest of seven children of Rosa Akins Braddy-Wright and her second husband, McArthur Norris.
Betty Wright Age
Betty Wright was born on December 21, 1953, and at the time of her death, she was 66 years old.
Betty Wright Career
Wright began her professional career at the age of two when her siblings formed the gospel group, the Echoes of joy. Wright contributed to the vocals on the group’s first album, released in 1956. Wright and her siblings performed together until the mid-1960s. Following the break up of the group in 1965, 11-year-old Betty decided to switch musical styles from gospel to rhythm and blues singing in local talent shows until being spotted by a local Miami record label owner, who signed her to her first label deep city records in 1966 at age 12. She released the singles, “Thank You Baby” and “Paralyzed”, which found Wright local fame in Miami. As a teen she was responsible for discovering other local talents such as George and Gwen McCrae in 1967, helping them sign with the Alston Records label. She released her first album My First Time Around when she was still aged 14 with her first hit single being “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do.” She released “Pure Love” in 1970 aged 16 while still in high school.
Some of her best songs such as “Clean up Woman” were released when Wright was 18 years old. Other hits from Wright’s back catalog include the songs, “Shoorah, Shoorah,” “Tonight Is The Night” and “Where Is The Love,” which won Wright a Grammy Award for Best R&B song. In the 2000s, Wright would score further Grammy nominations after co-producing Joss Stone’s first two albums. Wright performed with Stone on the song, “The Art of Love and War.”
Betty Wright Husband
Wright was married to reggae singer/songwriter, Noel “King Sporty” Williams. Wright was also married three times. Williams was perhaps most famous to co-writing Bob Marley’s hit, Buffalo Soldier.” Williams passed away in January 2015 at the age of 71.
At the time of his death, William’s friend, DJ Tom Laroc told WLRN, “Sporty gave Wright the muscle to fight for her lights and her publishing. He helped make her a very empowered woman in the music business.”
In an interview with the Sun-Sentinel, she said about her marriages and divorces in 1986, “I only intended to be married one time. But marriages are made, they don’t just happen. It takes two. Compassion, not passion, keeps a marriage together. You can’t stay in bed all day.”
In 2010, Williams was awarded the International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA) Lifetime Achievement Award.
Betty Wright Children
During her life, Wright gave birth to five children, Aisha, Patrice, Patrick, Chaka, and Asher. Her son Patrick was shot dead on Christmas Day 2005 at a holiday party in the Opa-Laka community in South Florida. He was 21 years old. No arrests were made in the killing.
Wright recorded the song, “Dry Well” as a tribute to her son. In 2012, Wright performed the song at a rally in support of the arrest of George Zimmerman. Wright said at the time via Reuters, “And if I can lend a celebrity voice to it, because when my son died, the way I got through it was through the power of family and the power of prayer. And I began to write it out, as I have always done the pain in my life.” In a 1986 interview, Wright told Sun-Sentinel that she once refused a $1 million offer to perform in South Africa. Wright refused as a means of protesting the country’s apartheid regime.
Betty Wright Death
Wright’s death comes a week after singer Chaka Khan had asked fans to pray for the Florida legend’s health. Khan Tweeted:
Calling all my #PrayWarriors | My beloved sister, Betty Wright @MsBettyWright, is now in need of all your prays.
“Que Sera, Sera | Whatever Will Be, Will Be”
In Jesus Name We Pray for Sister Betty
All My Love Chaka pic.twitter.com/krQcfWFl5r
— 🎼 𝕮𝖍𝖆𝖐𝖆 𝕶𝖍𝖆𝖓 💜 (@ChakaKhan) May 2, 2020
“Calling all my #PrayWarriors | My beloved sister, Betty Wright @MsBettyWright, is now in need of all your prays. “Que Sera, Sera | Whatever Will Be, Will Be” In Jesus Name We Pray for Sister Betty All My Love Chaka.”
Chaka Khan was a dear friend of Wright’s.
The cause of Wright’s death has not been made public. She died at the age of 66.
On her profile on Universal Music’s Website, it’s written that Wright “influenced a generation of female singer-songwriters and continues to influence the world of hip hop.” Some of her songs “Clean up Woman” have been sampled by season artists such as Mary J. Blige on her hit “Real Love” and by Afrika Bambaataa and Sublime. Wright mentored young sisters and songwriters at her camp, MOST, an acronym for Mountains Of Songs Today.
In March 2020, DJ Khaled and Lil Wayne reminisced on the importance of the song, “Tonight Is the Tonight,” for an episode of the TV One Show, Unsung. During the episode, Lil Wayne says of the song:
There’s eras of the song in my life, the first is being in the backseat of a car. Your mom’s singing it and you’re singing right along with her.
The second is you’re riding in that car alone and now you find those words meaning something totally different than what they meant when you were sitting in that backseat.