Remembering Betty Davis, a futuristic funk force

Betty Davis’ three albums released in the 1970s – “Betty Davis” in 1973, “They Say I’m Different” in 1974 and “Nasty Gal” in 1975 – were not huge commercial successes, but they were deeply advanced statements of funk futurism. .

Davis, who died this month at 77, was way ahead of her time, a black woman exploring the connections between blues vocalization and funk beats making music that would only begin to have company for a few years – or really, a decade or two – later. She had been married to Miles Davis and pushed him towards the psychedelia he explored on “Bitches Brew” and beyond. And his heirs range from Rick James and Prince to Joi and Janelle Monáe.

On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about Davis’ unique music, the forces that conspired to make his career short, and the path that led to his rediscovery.

Guests:

  • Jon Pareles, New York Times Chief Pop Music Critic

  • Maureen Mahon, associate professor in NYU’s music department and author of “Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll”

  • Oliver Wang, professor of sociology at California State University, Long Beach, and author of the liner notes on the late 2000s reissues of Betty Davis’ first three albums

Connect with Popcast. Become a member of the Popcast community: join the show Facebook group and Discord Channel. We want to hear from you! Tune in and let us know what you think at [email protected] Follow our host, Jon Caramanica, on Twitter: @joncaramanica.

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