Betty Davis’ Legendary and Long-Lost Recording Sessions, Produced by Miles Davis, Finally Released (1968–1969)

Bring­ing her down-home North Car­oli­na back­ground to the world of funk, Bet­ty Mabry spent a bet­ter part of the six­ties try­ing to make it big in the music scene, while also mod­el­ing to pay the rent. She ran in the same crowds as Jimi Hen­drix, Eric Clap­ton, and Hugh Masekela (who she dat­ed), and she wrote her own songs, sell­ing one to the Cham­bers Broth­ers, and then got a cou­ple of sin­gles on Capi­tol Records.

And then Miles Davis stepped in the pic­ture. First as a whirl­wind romance and mar­riage, then as a pro­duc­er who was going to launch Bet­ty Davis as the queen of funk (and refur­bish his image in the process.) He had already ded­i­cat­ed two songs to her and put her on the cov­er of his 1968 album Filles de Kil­i­man­jaroAnd now he was set to pro­duce her solo debut.

That album is final­ly being released. Bet­ty Davis: The Colum­bia Years 1968–1969 drops tomor­rowTo hear Light in the Attic’s video press release above breath­less­ly tell it, “music fans have long debat­ed the truth about one leg­endary ses­sion record­ed in 1969 at Columbia’s 52nd Street Stu­dios.” Per­son­al­ly I don’t know what was actu­al­ly debat­ed, but yes, Bet­ty Davis record­ed tracks for a funk album using mem­bers of Jimi Hendrix’s Expe­ri­ence band (Mitch Mitchell, drums) and his Band of Gyp­sies (Bil­ly Cox, bass), along with gui­tarist John McLaugh­lin, key­boardist Her­bie Han­cock, Har­vey Brooks on bass, Wayne Short­er on sax, and Lar­ry Young on organ. Teo Macero co-pro­duced with Miles Davis.

If this sounds like most of the band that went on to make Miles’ Bitch­es Brew (a record title sug­gest­ed by Bet­ty), then you’re right. It could be seen as a ses­sion that got the wheels spin­ning in Miles’ mind about a new direc­tion to take his own work. And it’s that moment that so fas­ci­nates music fans.

Colum­bia passed on the Bet­ty Davis album and buried it in its vaults. It would take four years until Bet­ty Davis was able to get a solo album out on her own terms. That epony­mous 1973 album and the two that fol­lowed were poor sell­ers, but earned cult sta­tus due to Bet­ty Davis’ unabashed and unapolo­getic sex­u­al­i­ty, fem­i­nism, and feroc­i­ty on stage—the same fac­tors that scared radio oper­a­tors and con­cert venues.

“She was the first Madon­na, but Madon­na was like Don­ny Osmond by com­par­i­son,” Car­los San­tana once quipped about her.

The Light in the Attic site has very brief clips from the songs on the new release, but since they are all from the open­ings of the tracks, they give lit­tle indi­ca­tion of the funky stew to fol­low, from the Cream and Cree­dence Clear­wa­ter Revival cov­ers (“Politi­cian Man,” “Born on the Bay­ou”) to her own songs. The CD and LP pack­age looks gor­geous of course, with lin­er notes and pho­tos.

Davis retired from music after her fourth album went nowhere but she is still around, and, accord­ing to the Light in the Attic web­site, a doc­u­men­tary is in the works on this influ­en­tial funky icon who needs redis­cov­er­ing.

via Boing Boing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Miles Davis’ Entire Discog­ra­phy Pre­sent­ed in a Styl­ish Inter­ac­tive Visu­al­iza­tion

The Night When Miles Davis Opened for the Grate­ful Dead in 1970: Hear the Com­plete Record­ings

Rare Miles Davis Live Record­ings Cap­ture the Jazz Musi­cian at the Height of His Pow­ers

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.