NORTHWEST MIAMI DADE, Fla. – She is a music icon, a respected mentor, vocal coach and most importantly, Betty Wright was “Miami’s Momma.”
She never knew a stranger. She made you feel her music. The woman behind the hit songs also made everyone feel special.
At Bethel Apostolic Church, friends and family gathered Friday to pay tribute to the 66-year-old legendary R&B singer whose music career lasted five decades. She died May 10, 2020 at her home in Miami after a battle with cancer.
As a child, I distinctly remember my mother blasting her music.
“She wrote anthems,” Angelo Morris, her musical director and bassist, said. “Every time she wrote a song, she wrote an anthem for exactly what you are saying. Women’s causes, women’s rights.”
“Tonight is the Night” is one of Betty Wright’s many classics, along with “No Pain, No Gain” in 1988.
Her music career began with her family’s gospel group, The Echoes of Joy. By the age of 14, she had released her first album with a national hit in 1968, “Girls Can Do What Guys Can Do.”
“Oh, that voice she had; she could go from low to high in a matter of seconds,” said Lovette McGill, who was Betty’s best friend of 54 years. “She was always gifted. Some people just got it and some people have to work at it, but she just had it from Day One.”
By 1971, Betty had a gold record with "Clean Up Woman." She was only 18 years old. The following year, the song "Babysitter" was another big hit. And, in the 1980s, the hits just kept on coming, this time on her own record label.
"She took the bull by the horn and she started handling her business and the rest is history," says McGill.
In the past two decades, Betty was more than just a performer but a mentor and vocal coach to many — from Gloria Estefan and Jennifer Lopez to Beyoncé and rappers like Lil Wayne, Miami's Uncle Luke, Trick Daddy and DJ Khaled.
Every Thursday night, Betty Wright would have a special service at her home called Thankful Thursday where everyone would come over — friends, family and guests.
You would never know who would be in the crowd; some celebrity would be there, too, and it was always a packed house and they would fellowship and minister to each other.
I ask her longtime musical director what he is going to miss most about Betty Wright.
“Her voice. She was just a beautiful person. I can say this, what she meant to me in my life, 34 years ago I came into her life and, Calvin, I was on a magic carpet ride for 34 years with this young lady.”
Tune in Saturday, May 23: Betty Wright’s funeral service and ceremony will be broadcast online LIVE at Local10.com and Local 10′s Facebook page beginning at noon. Click here for more information about the livestream.