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Influential R&B Singer Betty Wright Dead at 66

Influential R&B Singer Betty Wright Dead at 66
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Just two days after singer Chaka Khan mysteriously called on all her "#PrayWarriors" to pray for Betty Wright, the R&B legend has died at 66.

TMZ reports that Wright's niece confirmed her Mother's Day death without providing a cause, but Billboard confirmed she died of cancer.

Dubbed one of the most underrated singers of her generation, Wright recently enjoyed an outpouring of attention as the honoree of an episode of TV One's "Unsung."

Wright was born Bessie Regina Norris on December 21, 1953, in Miami. Many performers claim to have been singing since childhood, but Wright had the vinyl receipts — she was a member of her family group Echoes of Joy at age 2 in the '50s.

By the time she was a pre-teen, she had taken on the stage name of Betty Wright and was locally known for her vocal prowess, winning talent shows and even releasing singles. Her debut album, "My First Time Around" (1968), was released when she was just 14, and led to her first hit, "Girls Can't Do What Guys Do," which Beyoncé sampled in her 2006 song "Upgrade U."

Already a pro by 18, she released what would become her most famous tune, "Clean Up Woman," in 1971. It was an R&B and pop smash. Her 1972 follow-up "Baby Sitter" was a minor hit, and became her first song spotlighting her use of her whistle-register vocals. Her work at the time was a precursor to disco, including the trailblazing tunes "Shoorah! Shoorah!" (1974) and "Where Is the Love?" (1975), the latter of which won her a Grammy.

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Her boldest move was yet to come: She formed her own label, Miss B Records, in 1985, and in 1988 became the first black woman ever to earn a gold certification for an album released on her own label, "Mother Wit." The album contained her hits "No Pain, No Gain" and "After the Pain."

She scored one of her biggest successes when Color Me Badd's "I Wanna Sex You Up," a #1 hit in 1991, heavily sampled a 1978 live recording of her song "Tonight Is the Night" — she sued and won 35% of the song's royalties.

Continuing to release new material, active in Grammy and other mentoring programs and new-talent initiatives, and touring for the rest of her life, Wright also became an in-demand vocal producer and coach, working with everyone from Gloria Estefan to Joss Stone to Sean "P Diddy" Combs on his 2006 series "Making the Band."

She was on the charts as recently as 2016 via the song "Holy Key" by DJ Khaled, which featured Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean and Wright.

Wright is survived by her children Aisha, Patrice, Chaka and Asher.

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