R&B Icon Betty Wright Dead at 66

Betty Wright
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Photo by Paul Bergen/Redferns

The iconic R&B singer and soul music icon Betty Wright has died at 66. Wright's niece shared the news via Twitter on Mother's Day (May 10).  The cause of her death has not been revealed. 

Having gotten her start in the industry as a background singer for other artists, Wright released her debut album My First Time Around in 1968, scoring her first Top 40 hit with "Girls Can't Do What the Guys Do." This single would later be sampled in Beyonce's "Upgrade U."

Wright was only 18 when she released her biggest hit, 1971's "Clean Up Woman," which has been immortalized in hip hop and soul music through countless samples by artists, including Mary J. Blige in her remix of "Real Love." Wright's signature tune would peak at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Throughout the 70's, she released albums whose singles would often be featured on the R&B charts. In 1975, she took home the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song with "Where Is The Love." In 1981, she collaborated with Stevie Wonder in her Wonder-produced single "What Are You Going to Do with It."

By 1985, she would pave the way for female singers by being the first to launch her own record company, Mrs. B Records, and her own music publishing company.  It was then that she recorded "No Pain (No Gain)," which was followed by the groundbreaking "Mother Wit," the song that would immortalize Wright as the first African-American female singer to hit gold status on her own label. 

During the next two decades, Wright would continue to put out her own solo material while also teaming up with Erykah Badu, David Byrne, Jennifer Lopez, Joss Stone and Lil Wayne as a background singer.

The shocking news came a week after Chaka Khan took to Instagram to ask for prayers for Wright, sharing "Calling all my #PrayWarriors. My beloved sister, Betty Wright, is now in need of all your prays."

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