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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Legendary Betty Davis


A wildly flamboyant funk diva with few equals even three decades after her debut, Betty Davis combined the gritty emotional realism of Tina Turner, the futurist fashion sense of David Bowie, and the trendsetting flair of Miles Davis, her husband for a year. It's easy to imagine the snickers when a 23-year-old model married a famous musician twice her age, but Davis was no gold digger; she turned Miles on to Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone (providing the spark that led to his musical reinvention on In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew), then proved her own talents with a trio of sizzling mid-'70s solo LPs.

Born Betty Mabry in North Carolina, Davis grew up in Pittsburgh and had decamped to New York by the early '60s, where she gained entrance into hipster musical circles courtesy of the clubs she frequented -- and one she worked at, the Cellar. She first recorded around that time, and also put out a 1964 single for Don Costa's DCP imprint. Her first major writing credit, "Uptown" by the Chambers Brothers, came in 1967, before she'd turned 20. One year later, she met Miles Davis in New York, and they were married by the end of summer 1968. Though their marriage didn't survive the end of the decade, Betty Davis was tremendously influential to Miles, introducing him to psychedelic rock and even influencing his wardrobe. Miles' 1968 LP Filles de Kilimanjaro featured her on the cover, and he wrote the final track ("Mademoiselle Mabry") for her.

Miles divorced her in 1969, explaining later in his autobiography that she was "too young and wild" for him. (He also suspected her of an affair with Jimi Hendrix, an allegation she denies.) By the beginning of the '70s, Betty Davis began work on a set of songs and tapped a host of great musicians to bring them to fruition: Greg Errico and Larry Graham from Sly Stone's band, Michael Carabello from Santana, the Pointer Sisters, and members of the Tower of Power horn section. Her self-titled debut album finally appeared in 1973, and though it made no commercial impact at all, it was an innovative collection with plenty of blistering songs. Even more so than a soul shouter like Tina Turner, Davis was a singer for the feminist era, a take-no-prisoners sexual predator who screamed, yelled, grunted, purred, and cooed her way through extroverted material like "Anti Love Song," "Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him," and "He Was a Big Freak." Religious groups protested many of her concert appearances (several were canceled), and radio outlets understandably refused to play her extreme work.

Davis hardly let up with her second and third albums, 1974's They Say I'm Different and 1975's Nasty Gal, but they too made little impact. Though she would have made an excellent disco diva, Betty Davis largely disappeared from the music scene afterward. An aborted 1979 session has been released on multiple occasions, once as Crashin' from Passion and also as Hangin' Out in Hollywood. Early in the 21st century, Light in the Attic Records reissued Davis' three released studio albums, and also issued for the first time her 1976 unreleased recording, Crashin' from Passion, as Is It Love or Desire?


  • 1973 Betty Davis
  • 1974 They Say I'm Different
  • 1975 Nasty Gal
  • 1976 - Is It Love Or Desire
  • 1995 Hangin' Out in Hollywood
  • 1996 Crashin' from Passion
  • 2003 - This Is It (Compillation)


Dan said...

is she the betty davis from madonna's vogue - betty davis, we love you?

SelfScience said...

Nice picture choice brother Zand!

zand said...

dan, i think that it's another singer

zand said...

Self - Science! She is a sexy singer and i picked up her sexy picture ;-)

Anonymous said...

many thanks for your job!!
I love this SITE.

Anonymous said...

I Love this site. Thanx for Betty Davis

La Piazza Gancio said...

Inspired choice! Love it!

Anonymous said...

Madonna refers 'Bette Davis', note the 'e'. She's the same 'Bette Davis' of Kim Carnes' song 'Bette Davis eyes'. An actress

Unknown said...

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Una mas, muchas gracias para todo... and wishing you a prosperous 2011.


Anonymous said...

i just love her raw style!

a 2007 radio interview:

Anonymous said...

love this blog..props for the betty davis the vinyl..nice to be able to bump em on my 1pod.

peace everytime



Anonymous said...

great post, greatest website ever, can you dig?!

Anonymous said...

To all of you Betty Davis fans: I've got somethin' cool for ya...
Here' the rarest of all rarities! I have recorded this myself on location in France, July 1st, 1976, and it appears to be the only BD live recording available. Although tecnically it's an audience recording, the quality is comparable to a good soundboard, as I placed the mics as close to the stage as possible.
I'm still seeding it on DIME in flac format, this is the mp3 version. Enjoy it:)
Yours truly, Sivad

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