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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. Betty Wright, R&B icon

Illustration for article titled R.I.P. Betty Wright, R&B icon
Photo: Mychal Watts (Getty Images for Jazz In The Gardens Music Festival)

As reported by TMZ, iconic R&B singer Betty Wright—known for “Clean Up Woman” and for a number of other hits that were sampled by future artists—has died. A cause of death was not given, but TMZ says that her niece confirmed the news. A few days ago, Chaka Khan tweeted a message of support for Wright, asking her followers to pray for her. Wright was 66.


Wright was born in Florida in 1953, the youngest of seven kids, and she performed with her siblings as part of a gospel group up until the mid-’60s. She continued performing in talent shows after that, taking on a more R&B-friendly style and signing to her first record label when she was only 12. As a teenager, she released her first album and her first hit single, My First Time Around and “Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do.”

Wright was 17 when she released “Clean Up Woman,” and it had sold over a million copies by the time she turned 18. The track would go on to become sampled in a number of more recent hits, including Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” and Chance The Rapper’s “Favorite Song.” She also had a hit a few years later with “Where Is The Love?” in 1974, which won a Grammy for Best R&B Song. She continued recording albums for the next few decades, including 1988's Mother Wit (the first album recorded by a Black woman and released on her own label to be certified gold), which included the hit “No Pain, No Gain”—Wright is credited with popularizing that phrase.

Pitchfork notes that Wright was also a prolific background vocalist, working with Stevie Wonder, David Byrne, Alice Cooper, Gloria Estefan, Erykah Badu, and many others. She also appeared on Diddy’s Making The Band in 2006, serving as the vocal coach for Danity Kane.