Betty Wright is a soul and R&B singer, who influenced a generation of female singer-songwriters and also influenced the world of hip hop, who sampled some of her more famous material.
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From singing gospel with the family group, the Echoes of Joy, Wright began switching to R&B music in 1965 when she was only eleven years old. In 1968, she released her first album, My First Time Around, at the age of 15, and scored her first hit single, "Girls Can't Do What Guys Can Do". But it was not until the end of 1971 that Wright's most successful phase of her career took place.
The song, "Clean Up Woman", became a Top 5 pop and R&B hit, and would later influence a remix of Mary J. Blige's "Real Love" single with the sample of its guitar riffs; R&B girl trio SWV's "I'm So Into You" also featured a sample from "Clean Up Woman," as did Afrika Bambaataa's song "Zulu War Chant", and Sublime's "Get Out!" remix. Beyoncé has sampled "Girls Can't Do What The Guys Do" for her hit "Upgrade U". In 1974, Wright scored big with the songs "Tonight is the Night" (about a real-life love affair that happened with Wright when she was a teenager) and "Where is the Love" which won her a Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1975.
In 1978, Wright sang a duet, "No Tricks", with Alice Cooper.
After experiencing a brief slump in the early 1980s, she rebounded founding her own record label, Ms. B Records, and in 1988 made music history by being the first woman to have a gold record on her own label, with the release of Mother Wit, which featured two of her biggest hits in years, "No Pain No Gain" and the "After The Pain." On both songs, Wright displays her upper register capabilities and seven-octave range.
When R&B group Color Me Badd released their hit, "I Wanna Sex You Up", in 1991, it generated controversy because the sample from "Tonight is the Night" had not been cleared; Wright soon took the band to court for royalties and was awarded 35% percent of royalties for writing the song. Whilst her cover of the song "Shoorah! Shoorah!" was used in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. The song also appears on the soundtrack to the second series of the UK Channel 4 comedy drama, No Angels.
By 2001 a compilation album The Very Best of Betty Wright was released, along with her first studio album for several years, Fit for a King. In 2002 the underground Hip-Hop artist RJD2 used a sample from Wright's song "Secretary" in his most commercially successful track "Ghostwriter". "Ghostwriter" has since gone on to be used in multiple advertisements and commercials.
On 24 December 2005, her 21-year-old son Patrick Parker was shot and killed after a dispute at a Christmas party in Opa-locka, a Miami suburb.
In 2006, Wright appeared on the TV show Making the Band as vocal coach appointed by Sean Combs, for the his new female group Danity Kane.
Wright is collaborating with Melanie Brown of Spice Girls fame on Brown's third album, and is featured on the Angie Stone single "Baby", which peaked late in 2007 at number twenty-two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Still recording music to this day, she now mentors several young singers, and has done vocal production for the likes of Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez and Joss Stone. Wright currently resides in her hometown of Miami.
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