Betty Davis: They Say I’m Different

Singer, songwriter, musician, producer and oft-overlooked funk pioneer Betty Davis has passed away at 77. Davis has been widely credited with inspiring then-husband Miles Davis to embark on his landmark jazz fusion era by introducing him to psychedelic rock and funk, but she was an icon in her own right—and one of the first Black women acknowledged for writing, arranging and producing her albums. She released three LPs—a self-titled debut (1973), They Say I’m Different (1974) and Nasty Gal (1975)—and recorded a fourth, but it was shelved for 33 years after Davis was banned from the radio (and even boycotted by the NAACP) due to her raunchy lyrics, provocative performances and sexy style. While she wasn’t a huge commercial success, her raw, soulful and erotic brand of funk-rock thrilled the audience she did have, and she was wildly influential within the industry, with the likes of Prince, Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu and others crediting her as an idol. Her future-forward style, unapologetic self-assurance and fearless “Bettyness” (as Badu puts it) will continue to inspire.