Rest in peace, Betty Wright: “Clean Up Woman” (1971)


Soul singer Betty Wright passed away today at the age of 66.

Wright technically started her singing career before she turned three. She was a member of Echoes of Joy, a group that featured her whole family, in Miami in 1956. It wasn’t until ten years later, at the age of 13, that she recorded her first songs for Deep City Records.

Chart movement started shortly thereafter. In the summer of 1968 Wright, then 14, had a hit that crossed over to the Pop charts, “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do.” It made it up to #33 in the fall of that year. A follow-up single, “He’s Bad Bad Bad,” failed to cross over, but got some regional airplay – especially in Louisville, Kentucky where WAKY and WKLO both had it as a Top 5 record.

Lightning struck at the end of 1971. “Clean Up Woman” made it all the way to #6 on the Pop charts, and was a bigger hit on several influential Black radio stations. WWRL in New York placed it at #1 while Chicago’s WVON had it at #2. Several other stations had it at #2 with a #1 position at KONO in San Antonio, Texas.

That was the end of the crossover success. A subsequent single, “Baby Sitter,” just missed the Top 40 at the end of 1972, stalling at #46. She made a brief comeback in 1988 on the R&B charts with the release of “No Pain (No Gain).” Following a long gap, Wright last charted in 1990 on a recording of “How ‘Bout Us,” on which she sang with Grayson Hugh. The tune, from the soundtrack of the film True Love, charted at #67 on the pop side but made it up to #15 on the Adult Contemporary charts, meaning I must have played it somewhere along the way. In later years Wright crossed over to television, hosting a local talk show in her home of Miami.

You can hear “Clean Up Woman” by clicking here.


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