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16 Betty Davis

Betty Davis, the visionary and hot funk legend, in 3 unforgettable tracks


The trailblazing, ultra-sensual funk icon and former wife of Miles Davis passed away on Wednesday 9th February at the age of 77. As a tribute, we look back at three key tracks sung (and often composed) by the New York diva with a husky voice and rock attitude that greatly influenced black American music today.

1. Betty Davis – They Say I'm Different (1974)


This song, full of soft little cries and electrifying guitars, says a lot about the rock attitude (a genre she introduced her ex-husband, Miles Davis, to) and the uniqueness of the songwriter and singer. Betty Davis was indeed unlike any other. Whether it was her crazy attire of mini-shorts and her impressive afro (she was a former model), her friendships (Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone) or her stage performances and lyrics so erotic that they angered the legions of decency.

2. Betty Davis - Nasty Gal  (1975)


This very sexy song (heralding the uninhibited attitude of Prince or Madonna) from Betty Davis's third studio album, also entitled Nasty Gal, dates from 1975 but has not aged a bit. At the time, the album was not a commercial success, so much so that, shortly afterwards, the queen of New York underground funk retired from music. The album was re-released several times in the following years and went on to gain a cult following. The album even gave its name to the Nasty Gal brand, whose designer was a big fan of the singer.

3. Betty Davis - F.U.N.K. (1975)

This song perfectly illustrates what Betty Davis was capable of, namely sounding like a captivating mix between Tina Turner, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie. Sampled by Ice Cube and Talib Kweli, the American who was brought up on a diet of blues (thanks to a music-loving grandmother and father) managed to enchantingly combine the alluring, sexy side of funk and the spirit of punk with a husky, gut-wrenching voice that sounded like it wanted to throw decorum to the wind. Before today's pop feminism and empowerment, Betty Davis paved the way for a generation of free and proud artists such as Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Rihanna and Beyoncé.