BETTY WRIGHT / ‘Betty Wright Mixtape”
Ms. Betty Wright. I admit it, back in the seventies I didn’t fully appreciate her. Seemed like she was always singing sad songs about being done wrong or doing wrong, or sometimes being both the doer and the done wrong. None of her classic songs had an overt, political message. And though I dug a number of the grooves, and really appreciated her voice, her multi-octave range and the enticing warmth of her tones, especially when she was rapping sweet nothings or whispering suggestive sweet something-somethings, nevertheless Betty was not a favorite of mine back in the day. But I know better now. Betty was like one of them sisters from around the way who never made it through college, that is if she even graduated from high school. The fine, thick young sisters who made all the house parties exciting and, later on, the late night trysts so alluring, even addictive. If they married, it was seldom for too long. Today they are pejoratively referred to as “baby mamas.” That’s the negative side of these women who are actually the bedrock of our communities. These are the strong ones and when whatever deal goes down, these are the sisters with more heart than a lot of the dudes who flake out when the going gets tougher than tough; like when the man kicks in the door or your boy from around the corner robs you blind, or when the electricity gets cut off and ain’t no food in the refrigerator and the kids got to eat and get taken to school. If you live (or lived) in the ghetto, you know the story. These are the sisters who some miraculous way get done whatever absolutely needs to get done. If you listen to Betty’s songs with an understanding that Betty is singing about the valley of emotional death that poor black women trod through on a daily basis, then you will get a different appreciation of this music. These are the ordinary looking sisters, the ones who are ten or twenty pounds (or more) heavier than they (and most everybody else) think they should be, or maybe they are so worn down their high school clothes hang off their frames because the cheap cotton dresses and polyester slacks have somehow become one or two sizes too big. But they aren’t asking for pity, nor are they simply singing the blues. They remain feisty, sure they go through bipolar mood swings, but they’re swinging, and swinging hard. That’s what you hear in Betty Wright’s music: the heart of working class black women to confront the daily worriations and downpressings of modern life. These are more than sufferers who survive. These women are the soul of our people. There is no quit here. No resignation. Instead there is defiance and determination. That’s what you hear in this music. Sure, I would love to hear more overt social awareness but I tell you what, whenever the deal goes down, these sisters got your back even as they continue to hold down the frontlines on the home front. Look, Betty has won a Grammy, but more important than any award, Betty was one of those Deep South stalwarts who bet their career on us being able to start our own record labels and compete on a national level. Betty literally went “natural” on a style tip, and went all out for self-determination. And although ultimately we didn’t overcome the way we wanted to, some of us are still standing, still singing, still swinging and it’s people like Betty Wright who deserve kudos for staying the course, for keeping on when supposedly smarter or more political types have fallen to the wayside. I’m not going to single out any particular song because I’m inviting you to listen to all of them with a different mindset. Indeed, listen to this collection for the joy and the pain, for the rough times of trials and tribulations that border on clichés but are actually reflective of deep, everyday truths. Miami born (December 21, 1953) and bred, Betty Wright is not a name we usually include at the top of our lists of soul singers, but as this Mixtape demonstrates loud and clear, the exclusion of Ms. Betty Wright is our error. Listen again. This is music that accurately reflects the ordinary albeit important dreams and desires of hard working women, the ones who are the sutures, threads, strings, twines and ropes that keep us together. —Kalamu ya Salaam Betty Wright Mixtape Playlist The Platinum Collection 01 “Girls Can't Do What The Guys Do” 02 “Baby Sitter” 03 “Secretary” 04 “Clean Up Woman” 05 “Pure Love” My First Time Around 06 “I'm Gonna Hate Myself In The Morning” Danger High Voltage 07 “Where Is The Love” 4u2njoy 08 “Valley Of Lonely” Sevens 09 “Pain” Danger High Voltage 10 “Shoorah! Shoorah” Mother Wit 11 “After The Pain” 12 “No Pain, (No Gain)” Betty Wright 13 “Indivisible” 14 “One Bad Habit” Betty Wright Live 15 “Lovin' Is Really My Game” 16 “Tonight Is The Night” 17 “A Song for You” 18 “You Can't See For Lookin' ”
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