Betty Davis dead at 77

Betty Davis dead at 77: Queen of Funk and second wife of Miles Davis passes away from natural causes

  • Singer Betty Davis has died of natural causes at the age of 77 at her Pennsylvania home, Rolling Stone confirmed Tuesday
  • The performer who rose to fame in the mid 1960s and 1970s has been dubbed the Queen of Funk
  • Davis was briefly married to jazz icon Miles Davis, his second wife, though they split up after one year 
  • She retired from the spotlight in 1979 and moved back to her hometown of Pittsburgh where she lived until her death 

Betty Davis, legendary funk singer and ex-wife of jazz great Miles Davis, has died at the age of 77 according to Rolling Stone on Tuesday. 

Her passing was confirmed to the outlet by the performer’s close friend Danielle Maggio.

The communications director for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Amie Downs, said that Davis died from natural causes.

RIP: Betty Davis, legendary funk singer and ex-wife of jazz great Miles Davis, has died at the age of 77 according to Rolling Stone on Tuesday (pictured in 1969)

Davis rose to prominence in the mid 1960s and 1970s with her instantly recognizable raspy voice and cemented herself in funk music history.

She was briefly wed to jazz icon Miles Davis, his second wife, but the pair split after just one year. He was 19 years her senior.

The pair met and worked together on some music in 1968, tying the knot around that time but their professional and personal relationship quickly fizzled though she kept his last name.

Musical: Davis rose to prominence in the mid 1960s and 1970s with her instantly recognizable raspy voice and cemented herself in funk music history (1974 album cover)

Betty had a great impact on Miles, one that lasted long after their romance. She is credited as introducing him to new music like Jimi Hendrix which catalyzed Davis’ pivot into jazz fusion and some of his most iconic word. 

Perhaps not as widely known as some of her contemporaries, as Rolling Stone put it, following her death, Davis ‘left an underappreciated yet trailblazing body of work’.

Personal life: She was briefly wed to jazz icon Miles Davis, his second wife, but the pair split after just one year. He was 19 years her senior (the pair pictured at the funeral of Jimi Hendrix in 1969)

Davis worked as a model in London and recorded music throughout the early 1970s. She released her self-titled first record in 1973. 

Her two following albums, They Say I’m Different and Nasty Gal, were released in 1974 and 1975 respectively.

Only two of Betty’s singles broke into the top 100, with If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up peaking at 66 and Shut Off the Lights at 97, according to Billboard.

Born in North Carolina and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Betty left home at 16 to attend New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. 

During that time the beauty also modeled for several high profile fashion magazines such as Ebony and Glamour.

Her career was short-lived and sometime around the late 1970s, Betty decided to give it up for a quieter life, moving back to he hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she lived until her death.

In the subsequent four decades since her commercial success, Davis maintained a very quiet life, described in some reports as reclusive.

Queen of Funk: The communications director for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Amie Downs, said that Davis died from natural causes (pictured in 1969)

She re-emerged in 2017 to contribute to a documentary about her life, Betty Davis: They Say I’m Different, the title a nod to her album of the same name.

Then, the following year, the former celebrity opened up about her decision to bow out of the limelight in an interview with the New York Times.

‘When I was told that it was over, I just accepted it. And nobody else was knocking at my door,’ she quipped to the paper.

‘When I was told that it was over, I just accepted it. And nobody else was knocking at my door,’ she quipped to the NYT in 2018 (pictured in 1976)

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