Music legend Betty Wright dies at 66 after cancer battle

Liberty-city born singer remembered as an influence to many in the music industry

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Music lost a legend Sunday when singer Betty Wright passed away from cancer at the age of 66.

Betty Wright was born and raised in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood. She toured with James Brown and Bob Marley, among many others, and she established herself as a mentor to so many names in the music industry today. One of her last major performances was at the Hard Rock Stadium at the Jazz in the Gardens festival where she had performed for the past two years.

No Pain (No Gain)” was just one of the ten Top 20 hits that the R&B singer would celebrate over her five-decades long career.

Her distinct sound would reach radios and concert venues around the world, but she never left her Miami roots.

"Black people in the community, we needed someone to be proud of and Betty Wright was someone that all of South Florida could be proud of," Deejay James T. of radio station Hot 105.1, said.

She died at her home in Miami on Sunday. Wright’s family confirmed the news of her death saying: “Our believed mother, grandmother, sister, godmother, mentor, friend and music icon, transition to be with the Lord.”

Wright was all that and more to some of the biggest names in music from Jennifer Lopez to Beyoncé. Wright even served as a vocal coach to the members of the mega group Destiny’s Child.

The singer’s hit, “Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do” was sampled by Beyoncé years later on her classic “Upgrade U.”

“From Rick Ross to Uncle Luke to DJ Khaled, she’s been that music mother figure to all of us in the music and radio business,” DJ Big Man Kelly said.

Rapper Lil' Wayne posted a tribute Sunday saying "I don't know what this world would've been without you. I do know that my world wouldn't be what it is today without your pure blessing.

The 66-year-old had battled cancer and last week, singer Chaka Khan solicited prayers for her friend via Twitter.

Kelly said Wright and Chaka Khan were "very close."

But the strong woman with the big voice was silenced Sunday morning shocking the entire music industry and leaving many in mourning across South Florida.

“I will never allow a moment of death to her body to erase a lifetime of love that she gave,” James T said.

Wright, who was born Bessie Regina Norris, started her career as a member of her family’s Miami gospel group The Echoes of Joy, singing on their first album when she was three years old. When she was 15, she recorded her debut studio album “My First Time Around” (1968) where the song “Girls Can’t Do What Guys Can Do" made it to the Billboard 100 charts.

Her biggest smash was in 1972 with the song “Clean Up Woman,” which peaked at No. 2 on R&B charts and No. 6 on Billboard’s pop charts. In 1975, she won a Grammy Award for Best R&B song

Wright founded her own record label, Mrs. B Records, in the early 1980s, and released “No Pain (No Gain”) in 1988, which was considered a comeback for the singer. She sang backup for Miami’s Gloria Estefan as well as Jimmy Cliff, Johnny Mathis, and Jennifer Lopez, among others.

The condolences continue to pour in from friends and colleagues in the entertainment world.

In a statement from the family of Betty Wright, they said they would like to thank everyone for all of their "support, prayers and outpouring of love, " but out of respect for the family, they are keeping details about Wright’s bereavement private.

About the Authors:

Terrell Forney joined Local 10 News in October 2005 as a general assignment reporter. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but a desire to escape the harsh winters of the north brought him to South Florida.

Michelle F. Solomon is a multi-platform producer/reporter for Local10 and is the podcast producer/reporter/host of the station's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and producer of's DigiShorts.