Betty Davis, Funk Singer and Fashion Icon, Dead at 77: 'There Is No Other'

The funk pioneer died Wednesday morning of natural causes in Homestead, Pennsylvania

Betty Davis
Photo: Fin Costello/Redferns

Betty Davis, the renowned funk singer and ex-wife of jazz legend Miles Davis, has died at the age of 77.

Davis died of natural causes Wednesday morning in Homestead, Pennsylvania, where she grew up, her close friend, Danielle Maggio, an ethnomusicologist focused on Davis's work, and Allegheny County Communications Director Amie Downs, said, according to Rolling Stone.

"It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of Betty Davis, a multi-talented music influencer and pioneer rock star, singer, songwriter, and fashion icon," Davis' longtime friend Connie Portis said in a statement to the outlet. "Most of all, Betty was a friend, aunt, niece, and beloved member of her community of Homestead, Pennsylvania, and of the worldwide community of friends and fans.

"At a time to be announced, we will pay tribute to her beautiful, bold, and brash persona," she added. "Today we cherish her memory as the sweet, thoughtful, and reflective person she was…There is no other."

Never miss a story β€” sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Betty Davis
Gilles Petard/Redferns

Davis was born in North Carolina and prior to her career in music, she graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and later worked as a model.

Her music credentials include writing The Chambers Brothers' 1967 hit song "Uptown (to Harlem)" and also penning music that helped lead The Commodores in signing to Motown.

She released five albums of her own, titled Betty Davis, They Say I'm Different, Nasty Gal, Is This Love or Desire and Crashin' From Passion. Davis quickly became a pioneer in music, known for her sexually liberating lyrics and performances which paved way for music stars like Madonna and Prince.

"I wrote about love, really, and all the levels of love," she told The New York Times back in 2018. "When I was writing about it, nobody was writing about it. But now everybody's writing about it."

While her music was mainly recorded between 1964 and 1975, the vocalist's work has lasted decades, being featured today in TV shows including Orange Is the New Black and High Fidelity.

Rappers like Ice Cube and Talib Kweli have also sampled her songs.

Betty Davis
Anthony Barboza/Getty Images

Following the news of her death, several celebrities honored Davis on social media.

Lenny Kravtiz tweeted, "This lady was hip before hip was hip. Her musical and fashion expression had no boundaries, and she influenced the likes of Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix. 'Nuff said. Rest in paradise, Queen."

Actor Elijah Wood shared a photo of Davis, tweeting, "Rest in Power," while Questlove wrote, "To Be Continued. πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘ Betty Davis πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘ ripπŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘πŸ‘‘"

Prince's estate also shared a message on Twitter detailing how the late star previously referenced Davis' work in an interview, saying, "this is what we aim for."

"Our hearts are incredibly heavy today," said Matt Sullivan of Light in the Attic Records, which reissued Davis' music in the 2000s. "Her unbending DIY ethic and groundbreaking spirit will live on forever. We are going to miss her so much."

In late 2022, Light in the Attic will reportedly reissue Davis' final β€” and personal favorite β€” studio album Crashin' From Passion, per her website.

Related Articles