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The music world is mourning the loss of another legend with the news of the death of Betty Davis at age 77.
Davis died on Feb. 9 after only recently being diagnosed with cancer. Her friend Connie Portis confirmed the news to Rolling Stone through a statement.
“It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of Betty Davis, a multi-talented music influencer and pioneer rock star, singer, songwriter, and fashion icon,” Portis said in the statement. “Most of all, Betty was a friend, aunt, niece, and beloved member of her community of Homestead, Pennsylvania, and of the worldwide community of friends and fans. 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.”
Musicians have been paying their respects to the pioneering artist on social media.
“Rest in power,” reads George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic’s tribute to the queen of funk, which was posted with the cover for her 1974 album, “They Say I’m Different.”
Questlove posted a series of crowns for the queen of funk and wrote, “To be continued.”
Funk music master Booty Collins posted a loving tribute to Davis on Twitter.
“When Funk was a Bad Word, she embraced it,” Collins opened his tribute, which included an image of the singer and model that many considered to be highly provocative back when she was regularly on stage.
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).🙏🙏🙏 pic.twitter.com/p7iXj2Dy3c
— Bootsy Collins (@Bootsy_Collins) February 10, 2022
Born in Durham, North Carolina, as Betty Mabry, she grew up in Durham and Pittsburgh, then moved to New York for fashion school at the age of 17, in the early 1960s. She started work as a fashion model, according to The New York Times, but had aspirations to make her own music.
She married jazz music icon Miles Davis in 1968, but the marriage didn’t last long. During an interview for a 2017 documentary about her life and career called “Betty: They Say I’m Different,” she commented how difficult the union was for her.
“Every day married to him was a day I earned the name Davis,” she said in the film.
But, it was in the 1970s when Davis struck out on her own and changed the way people looked at Black women in music. She released three albums that decade that put her fearless and fierce personality on display, ABC News reported. Media outlets often called her “the Madonna before Madonna” because of how she embraced her personality and sexuality in her music and on the stage and fought to control her image.
Modern musicians such as Janelle Monáe cite Davis as an inspiration for their art. During a 2018 interview with Complex, Monáe referred to Davis as a pioneer for Black female artists like herself.
“I love Betty Davis,” she told Complex. “She’s free, and she’s one of the godmothers of redefining how black women in music can be viewed. I respect her a lot and she’s opened up a lot of doors for artists like myself.”