NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 39

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ANTHONY BARBOZA. l Betty Davis. Originally published on nodepression.com February 3rd, 2010. © 2010 Jesse Hayes. All rights reserved. Special thanks to Ms. Betty Davis, Ever Kipp at Tiny Human, Matt Sullivan at Light In The Attic, Kyla Fairchild at No Depression, and my editor Kellee Webb. bd: No, but they told me he was really good, so I asked the engineer to invite him down to the studio to hear the song. He knew Miles, so I put him on the phone with Miles. They were talking and stuff. So, he did it. It was really nice of him to do it. jh: Your cousin is playing bass and doing backing vocals on this record and the few preceding it, and the band is comprised of several other relatives. Did they play a significant role in the sound or was it merely them manifesting a sound that was already there in your head? bd: Well, I did all the arrangements and stuff, but of course their influence was there. jh: Was your whole family musical? bd: Yes, my mother’s sister’s kids. My cousins…we listened to a lot of music when I was growing up. In my grandmother’s house, my mother’s house… jh: You had a typical “Gospel on Sundays” house too. Did any of that play a role in your music later on? jh: Now there’s an intriguing record! One thing that I just wanted to mention because of the stigma that gets attached to the 70s and funk music and musicians, etc., is that you were never really involved in drinking and drugs and such. bd: No. jh: Unfortunately, it’s not the norm but one thing I hope people take away from your story, is that it’s not a necessary part of the experience. You really are a role model from the business side of things to the respect you had for your way of life. How did you avoid it all? bd: Well, I was really into my body, being healthy. All my friends did drugs and stuff but I was too into my body. jh: And because of it we still have you around today. bd: Mm-hmm. BRN-FALL-2013.indb 37 When I ask Betty about the future she gives a contemplative pause. “I don’t really know,” she drawls. “When you write you don’t think about what people want to hear or anything like that, you just write. If the songs are liked or how they’re perceived, you have nothing to do with that.” With the release of Is It Love or Desire, at long last, I am confident it’s only a matter of time before people will be scrambling for the next thing from the bold, yet subtle, sweet, yet ever so funky, beautiful dichotomy that is Betty Davis. “Well, we’ll see,” she says. “Goodnight.” Goodnight Betty, where ever you are. I’ll be sleeping with my fingers crossed. Live Well & Listen Closely, J. Hayes BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE bd: Mm-hmm. bd: No, we listened to a radio station that did all Gospel music on Sundays and, um, I’ve written a couple of Gospel songs but I’ve never recorded them. 37 jh: One of the things that’s so great about the record is that it challenges the audience. Just when the listener thought they knew what the “Betty Davis Sound” was, all of a sudden there are all these new layers. There’s a bit of a Funkadelic influence on there as well with the layered vocals on “Whorey Angel.” 9/13/13 12:48 AM