“Don’t Call Her No Tramp”: The Feminist Funk Power of Betty Davis

Betty Davis, They Say I'm Different (1974)

Today at 4 p.m. at the Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley College, I am giving a salon talk on Betty Davis. I’m thrilled to finally get my ideas out to friends and colleagues. It will be fun listening to her music and digesting the scholarly stuff along the way.

The gist of my argument is this: Scholars of music history seem comfortable and only have available to them exhaustive examples of men who dominate the genre of funk music. Thus, the paradigm through which most understand funk music is through the prism of masculine vibes and voices, like James Brown, George Clinton, Sun Ra, and Sly and the Family Stone. In my article in progress, I compare the feminist funk power of the fetishization of Renée Stout’s body and personas in her visual work of the 1980s and 1990s to the public images, description of performances, and lyrics of Betty Davis during the 1970s. By providing a thorough visual and theoretical analysis of the art of Renée Stout and a brief overview of the career of Betty Davis, I argue that both artists exhibit black feminist ambitions—deliberately or not. I’ll save the rest for my talk today, and, hopefully, for a YouTube version within the next couple of weeks.

Be sure to check out Light in the Attic Records to buy her re-released albums. Here’s my playlist for today:

  1. Betty Davis,  “Don’t Call Her No Tramp,” They Say I’m Different (1974) 
  2. Betty Davis, “They Say I’m Different,” They Say I’m Different (1974) 
  3. Ma Rainey’s “C.C Rider”
  4. Betty Davis, “He Was a Big Freak” (about Jimi Hendrix, not Miles), They Say I’m Different (1974)
  5. Betty Davis, “If I’m in Luck I might Get Picked Up,” Betty Davis (1973)
  6. Betty Davis,  “Nasty Gal,” Nasty Gal (1975)
  7. TRAMP” MEDLEY–Betty Davis, “Don’t Call Her No Tramp”/Otis Redding & Carla Thomas, “Tramp” (1967)/Salt-N-Pepa, “Tramp” (1986) I’m really excited about playing these songs together!
For an interview of Betty Davis, listen to Jessie Thornton’s The Sound of Young America from June 21, 2007.
I’ll be sure to post a link to the full-length article once it’s published. Wish me luck!

3 thoughts on ““Don’t Call Her No Tramp”: The Feminist Funk Power of Betty Davis

Add yours

  1. I love Ma Rainey. Looking forward to checking Betty Carter out, which album do you recommend starting out with- They say I’m Different?

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