Legendary funk and soul singer Betty Davis has passed away at the age of 77. Her bold songwriting and singing pioneered the funk genre during the 1960s and 1970s. She spent a considerable part of her childhood in Pittsburgh and eventually moved there permanently later in life.
Singer Danielle Maggio, who is also adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh revealed Betty Davis has passed away after a short illness on Wednesday, February 9, 2022. Maggio was associate producer on the 2017 documentary made on Davis’s life and craft, titled “Betty: They Say I’m Different.” Her name also comes as the inspiration behind her ex-husband Miles Davis’s work in jazz and contemporary music.
Betty Davis was an isolated name in the funk genre during her time, as she was one of the only women to pursue funk music. Often referred to as “Madonna before Madonna” Davis was known to be fearless and openly reclaimed her sexuality in a time when women, especially black women were under a highly racial and gendered censorship.
Author of “A Black Woman Did That” and “Vice President Kamala Harris: Her Path to the White House”, Malaika Adero wrote a tribute for Betty Davis on Twitter calling her an inspiration and the blueprint, “Betty Davis has passed & I’m heartbroken. She was a huge inspiration to me as a woman & artist, a blueprint for me stepping out into the world determine to (as in the lyric of Sly & the Family Stone): BE MYSELF. God rest her soul. And her music rocked to the highest.”
Poet, cultural critic, and author, Hanif Abdurraqib also wrote on Twitter, “was waiting to get confirmation before sharing anything, but this is sad news. Thankful for Betty Davis, though. The reach of her influence & sonic lineage is immense. You’ve heard her, even if you think you’ve never heard her. I’m glad we got her at all.”
For decades since her initial work, Davis stopped making new music, but her influence stayed, not just within the music industry but for people throughout different circles of life. In 2019 she finally broke her silence streak by releasing “A Little Bit Hot Tonight”, which she wrote and produced but asked Danielle Maggio to sing. Maggio said about her experience of working with Davis to The Associated Press, “It was a wonderful, surreal experience. As an ethnomusicologist who writes about Betty it was amazing to see her music making process first hand. She taught me the song and taught all the musicians their parts. She was very hands on and was an amazing producer.”