Fans Remember Funk Innovator Betty Davis Who Died at 77

The funk pioneer, whose brazen and sexually liberated songs shattered gender barriers in the 1970s, died on Wednesday in Homestead, Pennsylvania

Betty Davis, the trailblazing funk singer, songwriter, and style icon whose brazen and sexually liberated songs like “Nasty Gal” and “He Was A Big Freak” shattered gender barriers in the 1970s, died on Wednesday in Homestead, Pennsylvania. She was 77.

Her reissue label, Light in the Attic, issued a statement from her friend of 65 years, Connie Portis, announcing the death. The cause of death was not specified in the statement although Allegheny County communications director Amie Downs told Rolling Stone that Davis died of natural causes.

“Betty was a friend, aunt, niece, and beloved member of her community of Homestead, Pennsylvania, and of the worldwide community of friends and fans,” Portis wrote in the statement. “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.”

Davis, who started recording music under her birth name Betty Marby, got her last name from her one-year marriage to bandleader and composer Miles Davis. Her catalog, mostly recorded between 1964 and 1975, didn’t bring her nationwide hits, but her impact can still be seen today. Her three solo albums including 1973’s Betty Davis, They Say I’m Different in 1974, and 1975’s Nasty Gal are now considered classics of the era.

Several musicians, celebrities, and fans of Davis took to Twitter to remember the funk icon.

Lenny Kravitz tweeted on Wednesday, saying, “This lady was hip before hip was hip. Her musical and fashion expression had no boundaries, and she influenced the likes of Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix. ‘Nuff said. Rest in paradise, Queen.”

Bootsy Collins wrote: “When Funk was a Bad Word, she embraced it. Ms.Betty Davis (6-16, 1944-Feb. 9, 2022) was an American singer, songwriter, model best known for her controversial lyrics & performance. She was the 2nd wife of trumpeter Miles Davis. (Send up Prayer’s to her family & friends).”


“Just adding a note to say Betty Davis was always The ONE,” wrote musician, poet, and writer, Saul Williams. “An Afropunk original that connected dots between worlds, sounds, and the funkdafied spirit of rebellion. We missed her way before her passing and thank her for her contribution every time we touch the stage.”

Author and cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib tweeted: “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.”

“I play Betty Davis about once a week,” wrote author Author Tressie McMillan Cottom. “I just added her to an essay not two days ago! A beacon for strange Black girls who just don’t want to be tied down. What an icon. It seems she, too, has said enough of this world.”

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