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R&B legend Betty Wright dies aged 66

R&B singer Betty Wright has died aged 66.

Wright, a six-time Grammy nominee known for the hits Clean Up Woman, No Pain (No Gain) and Tonight Is the Night, and for her incredible range and whistle tone, passed away on Friday.

Her niece first confirmed the news on Sunday morning; Billboard reports that the cause of death was cancer.

Wright was born Bessie Regina Norris in Miami on December 21, 1953.

She was the youngest in a musical family of seven children and her career began at age two when she contributed vocals to the debut album by her siblings’ gospel group, Echoes of Joy.

Wright went solo at age 11, switching from gospel to R&B and performing at local talent shows. She landed a deal a year later with indie label Deep City Records, releasing a couple singles before moving on to Alston Records and releasing her full-length debut, My First Time Around, of at age 14.

Betty Wright performs at The 12th Annual Jazz In The Gardens Music Festival at Hard Rock Stadium on March 18, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Betty Wright performing in Florida in 2017. Source: Getty Images

That album yielded her first chart hit, Girls Can't Do What the Guys Do.

The singer was still a teenager when she released Clean Up Woman, which went to number two on the R&B chart and number six on the Billboard Hot 100, eventually selling more than a million copies.

Although “Clean Up Woman” became her signature song, Wright cracked the charts another two-dozen times during her career, notably with the 1974 Best R&B Song Grammy-winner Where Is the Love? and 1981’s Stevie Wonder-produced What Are You Going to Do With It.

In 1988, she became the first black female artist to achieve gold status with a self-released album, with her 12th LP, Mother Wit, on her own Mrs B Records label.

Wright was also successful behind the scenes. She was a background vocalist for Erykah Badu, Regina Belle, David Byrne, Jimmy Cliff, Alice Cooper, Gloria Estefan, Stephen Stills, Peter Tosh, Stevie Wonder, and many others, and worked as a vocal coach, writer, producer, and/or engineer for the likes of Estefan, Kelly Clarkson, Keyshia Cole, Destiny’s Child, Michael Jackson, Tom Jones, Jennifer Lopez, and Joss Stone.

She was introduced to a whole new audience when Clean Up Woman was sampled on Mary J. Blige’s Real Love, and her music was also sampled over the years by Afrika Bambaataa, Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, Sublime, SWV, and many more.

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