I want to work for WaxPoetics. They’ve exposed me to so much vital music including the Betty Davis. I might have to intern for them when I move to New York. I just want to be in the building! “How would you like your coffee?”, whatever!
They Say I’m Different – Betty Davis
Git In There – Betty Davis
Before Lil Kim was even old enough to gurgle her first sexually-explicit phrase through the bars of her crib, Betty Davis was making jaws drop with her straight-forward sexuality and indisputable talent.
Even if given only a quick listen, the music from her albums paint grand pictures of her live performances but it’s the lyrics that provide even more vivid ideas of what her on-stage persona must have been like. Imagine, if you can, what the music entertainment landscape must have looked like when she appeared.
It’s 1973. The top three songs getting rotation on African-American radio stations are Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ and Gladys Knight and The Pips’ ‘Neither One of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye).’ Now, even though Marvin’s song sounds like cotton candy compared to most of the music made today, it’s true that for that time it was probably one of the more comparatively vulgar songs getting played. However, one glaring fact remains: Marvin was a man and, let’s face it, it’s never been incredibly shocking for males to express their sexuality or make their erotic intentions public information especially in the music industry. So, when an overtly sexy woman comes along singing a song called “Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him” about how she ‘can’t help herself’, you can imagine the stir it might have caused. Let a few more lyrics digest:
“I’m going to do it ’til the cows come home/
I’m going to do it ’til the chicken crows/
I’m going to move it slow like a mule/
I’m going to do it, yes, I’m going to do it”
You couldn’t expect much less from a woman who was able to intensely influence the personal and professional life of Jazz giant Miles Davis whom she was married to for only one year. Aside from appearing on the cover of his 1969 album Filles de Kilimanjaro which also featured a song entitled “Mademoiselle Mabry (Miss Mabry)”, she also served as the link between soul, jazz and rock. Not only did she introduce legends Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone to Miles Davis, she also found herself sonically supported by a number of impressive musicians. From Sly and the Family Stone and Tower of Power to the Pointer Sisters contributing to the tone and texture of her music, Betty was obviously a powerful performer if she could garner not only the respect but the help of artists of that caliber.
Sadly, history swept soul’s sexy sweetheart’s artistic endeavors beneath the proverbial rug and hid a true gem that defied the era’s social and artistic expectations. Her self-titled album was released in 1973 and although it included all the big names, it still did not gain any commercial success. The same was true for the following two albums. It might have been due, in part, to her overtly sexual persona which drew protests and boycotts to her live performances and got her music banned from radio stations across the country.
But, to the glee of music geeks and vinyl vultures everywhere, her first two studio albums were re-released on May 1st by Seattle label Light in the Attic Records proving true talent is truly timeless. Do yourself a favor and purchase her music. It’s worth pulling your wallet out.
Keep your ears open for the masochistic tune rumored to be about innovative guitarist Jimi Hendrix on her second album They Say I’m Different. Yes, she said ‘turquoise chain.’
[Originally written for SpeakerMag – viva la indian givers]