Legendary soul and R&B singer Betty Wright, known for classics such as “Tonight Is the Night,” “No Pain, (No Gain)” and “Clean Up Woman,” has died. She was 66.
Wright died from cancer at her home in Miami, Billboard has confirmed.
In early May, Chaka Khan wrote on Twitter that Wright was “now in need of all your prays.” “Calling all my #PrayWarriors,” Khan tweeted. “My beloved sister, Betty Wright @MsBettyWright, is now in need of all your prays.”
Born Bessie Regina Norris in 1953, Wright started her music career singing with Echoes of Joy, her family’s gospel group in Miami. In 1968, at age 15, she released her debut album, My First Time Around, giving her a top 40 song on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do.”
Wright earned a top 10 single in 1972 with “Clean Up Woman,” which peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100, and would go on to be sampled by numerous artists, including Mary J. Blige, Afrika Bambaataa and Sublime. By the mid-’70s, Wright had scored big with songs “Tonight Is the Night” and “Where Is the Love,” which earned her a Grammy for for best R&B song in 1975.
In the 1980s, Wright founded her own record label, Ms. B Records, and released the album Mother Wit, featuring the popular song “No Pain (No Gain).”
In 2003, she co-produced Joss Stone’s The Soul Sessions, a collection of classic R&B songs from the 1960s and 1970s. The album, released on S-Curve Records, was shortlisted for England’s Mercury Prize.
Wright was introduced to a younger generation of fans in 2006 after being appointed a vocal coach by Sean “P Diddy” Combs on his television show Making the Band.
In 2011, she teamed up with The Roots for the collaborative album, Betty Wright: The Movie, which featured guest appearances by Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg and Stone.
“Betty Wright was one of the foundations of S-Curve’s creative family,” S-Curve Records founder/president Steve Greenberg tells Billboard. “She and I worked together on so many projects, ranging from Joss Stone to Tom Jones to the O’Jays, to her own album, Betty Wright & the Roots. She was a triple threat as an artist, writer and producer and she always got something extra special out of the singers she was producing. Her mere presence brought a studio to life and she had the gift of making everyone feel confident in their ability to create something magical.”