Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Muse: Betty Davis

No, not a typo.  She’s Betty Davis, not Bette Davis, née Betty Mabry– model, funk singer, second wife of Miles Davis, and influential muse of the 60s & 70s.   A model posing for ebony, seventeen, and glamour magazines, she was a 60s-70s scenester cavorting with Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix (its rumored that an affair with Hendrix ended her marriage to Miles Davis), ever the party fixture.   Her tastes and lifestyle had a major influence on Miles Davis’ jazz fusion discovery, introducing Davis to the psychedelic rock, funk, and her youthful lifestyle.   The Miles Davis album Filles de Kilimanjaro included a song named after Betty and an amazing psychedelic photo of Betty was plastered on the cover. In his autobiography, he credited her with introducing him to hip young music from other genres.  Betty's taste in music, fashion, and art introduced an innovative edge of sex and defiance to everything she touches.  It was Davis’ idea, for example, to change the the title of Miles’ “Witches’ Brew” to “Bitches’ Brew”.  In just one year of marriage, she had completely changed the course of Miles’ work.

After the breakup, Betty moved to London to pursue modeling and soon after, began her own fledgling musical career.  Her raw, sex-focused albums were banned from radio play, but were popular among jazz/funk record collectors.  Though never breaking the underground ceiling, her three album repertoire has achieved cult-classic status and served as a primary influence and forerunner for liberated female acts of the 80s and 90s.   She made four albums in total before giving it up in 1979.  


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