Betty Mabry grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and just outside of Pittsburgh. On her grandmother’s farm in Reidsville, North Carolina, she listened to B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, and Elmore James and other blues musicians.
Aged 16, she left Pittsburgh for New York City, enrolling at the Fashion Institute of Technology while living with her aunt. She soaked up the Greenwich Villageculture and folk music of the early 1960s. She associated herself with frequenters of the Cellar, a hip uptown club where young and stylish people congregated. It was a multiracial, artsy crowd of models, design students, actors, and singers. At the Cellar she played records and chatted people up. She also worked as a model, appearing in photo spreads in Seventeen, Ebony and Glamour.
In her time in New York, she met several musicians including Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. The seeds of her musical career were planted through her friendship with soul singer Lou Courtney, who produced her first single, “The Cellar” with simple, catchy lyrics like, “Where you going fellas, so fly? / I’m going to the Cellar, my oh my / What you going to do there / We’re going to boogaloo there.”
The single was a local jam for the Cellar. Yet her first professional gig was not until she wrote "Uptown (to Harlem)" for the Chambers Brothers. Their 1967 album was a major success, but Betty Mabry was focusing on her modeling career. She was successful as a model but felt bored by the work. According to Oliver Wang’sThey Say I’m Different liner notes, she said, “I didn’t like modeling because you didn’t need brains to do it. It’s only going to last as long as you look good.”
After the end of her marriage with Miles Davis, Betty moved to London, probably around 1971, to pursue her modeling career. She wrote music while in the UK and returned to the US around 1972 with the intention of recording songs with Santana. Instead, she recorded her own songs with a group of West Coast funk musicians. Her first record, Betty Davis, was released in 1973. She had two minor hits on the Billboard R&B chart - "If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up", which reached no. 66 in 1973, and "Shut Off The Lights", which reached no. 97 in 1975. Davis released two more studio albums, They Say I'm Different (1974) and her major label debut on Island Records Nasty Gal (1975). None of the three albums was a commercial success.
Davis remained a cult figure as a singer, due in part to her open sexual attitude, which was controversial for the time. Some of her shows were boycotted and her songs were not played on the radio due to pressure by religious groups and the NAACP. Her image as "the patron saint of badass women" led entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso onto her target customer base and inspired her to name "Nasty Gal" the online retailer venture which sells fashion clothing, shoes, and accessories to young women.
Both Betty Davis and They Say I'm Different were re-released by Seattle's Light in the Attic Records on May 1, 2007. In September 2009, Light in the Attic Records reissued Nasty Gal and her unreleased fourth studio album recorded in 1976, re-titled as Is It Love or Desire? (the original title was Crashin' From Passion). Both reissues contained extensive liner notes and shed some light on the mystery of why her fourth album, considered possibly to be her best work by many members of her band (Herbie Hancock, Chuck Rainey, Alphonse Mouzon), was shelved by the record label and remained unreleased for 33 years. After a final recording session in 1979, Davis eventually stopped making music and returned to Pennsylvania.
Material from the 1979 recording session was eventually used for two bootleg albums, Hangin' Out In Hollywood (1995) and Crashin' From Passion (1996). Agreatest hits album, Anti Love: The Best of Betty Davis, was released in 2000. - wikipedia
"THEY SAY I'M DIFFERENT" by BETTY DAVIS (1974) // PRESS*PLAY >>