Influential soul singer Betty Wright dies at 66

Hits from her ’70s heyday included “Clean Up Woman” and “Where Is the Love?”

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Betty Wright performs at the 2017 Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Mychal Watts/Getty Images

Betty Wright, the Miami soul singer who got feet moving in the ’70s with hits including “Clean Up Woman” and “Where Is the Love,” has died at age 66.

Her niece Niema Bella announced the news Sunday morning on Twitter. Wright’s collaborator Steve Greenberg, founder of S-Curve Records, said she was diagnosed with cancer last fall.

Wright recorded her signature song, “Clean Up Woman,” when she was just 17. Combining elements of funk, soul and R&B, it was her first top 10 pop hit, and later was sampled by artists including Chance the Rapper (“Favorite Song”) and Mary J. Blige (“Real Love - Remix”).

She would have her first hit she wrote herself in 1973 with “Baby Sitter,” which showed off her so-called “whistle register” vocals, an ultra-high singing style later employed by Mariah Carey and others.

With members of K.C. and the Sunshine Band, she co-wrote her 1975 proto-disco hit, “Where is the Love,” which would win her a Grammy for best R&B song.

A career lull prompted Wright to start her own label in 1985, leading to a gold album, “Mother Wit,” in 1987 and the comeback hit “No Pain (No Gain)”

She spent much of the rest of her life as a producer and mentor to younger artists, many of whom were singing her praises after her death.

“Thank you for being a master teacher, a friend and one of the greatest female soul singers in our industry,” Ledisi said on Twitter. “You were so much more than your music. We were blessed to be around royalty.”

John Legend tweeted that Wright “was always so loving and giving to younger artists. Always engaged, always relevant. She will be missed.”

Contributing: AP

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