Reprint of Rolling Stones Magazine
By DANIEL KREPS
Bessie Regina Norris (December 21, 1953 – May 10, 2020)
Betty Wright, the R&B and soul singer behind the hits “Clean Up Woman,” “Tonight Is the Night” and “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do,” has died at the age of 66.
Wright’s family confirmed to Essence that the singer died Sunday, with Billboard adding that Wright died from cancer in her native Miami. On May 2nd, Chaka Khan tweeted that Wright was “in need of all your [prayers].”
After growing up in a gospel-singing family, Wright released her first solo album — 1967’s My First Time Around — when she was just 14 years old, and scored her first hit at the age of 15 with “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do.”
Throughout the Seventies and Eighties, Wright released a series of hit singles including 1971’s “Clean Up Woman,” her most enduring song, “Tonight Is the Night,” “Dance With Me” and 1988’s “No Pain, No Gain.”
In 1975, Wright won the Grammy for Best R&B Song for her “Where Is the Love.” The singer was nominated for a total of six Grammys, including an Album of the Year nod in 2008 for her contribution to Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III; Wright appeared on that album’s “Playing With Fire.”
Wright’s music also laid the foundation for future hits by other artists: Her “Clean Up Woman” was sampled by artists like Chance the Rapper (“Favorite Song”), Mary J. Blige (her 1993 “Real Love” remix with Notorious B.I.G.) and SWV (“I’m So Into You”), and Beyoncé’s 2006 song “Upgrade U” sampled Wright’s “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do.”
In addition to her own work, Wright was also an in-demand studio vocalist, serving as background singers for dozens of artists including Stevie Wonder, Clarence Clemons, Stephen Stills, Peter Tosh, David Byrne and Erykah Badu.
Wright’s last album was the 2011 album Betty Wright: The Movie, an LP co-created by the Roots and featuring an all-star guest list that included Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg and Joss Stone; Wright previously served as co-producer on Stone’s breakout 2003 album The Soul Sessions. In 2016, Wright appeared alongside Kendrick Lamar and Big Sean on DJ Khaled’s “Holy Key.”
Wright’s husband Noel “King Sporty” Williams, who co-wrote Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier,” died in 2015.