Classics: Betty Wright – Clean Up Woman (Alston Records)
“A clean up woman is a woman who gets all the love we girls leave behind. The reason I know so much about her is because she picked up a man of mine…” Although a big majority of you may have forgotten its lyrics or simply never have heard of ‘Clean Up The Ghetto’, its famous guitar riff could sound familiar though. This because of luminaries such as Afrika Bambaataa, SWV and Mary Blige coming to use it in their compositions. Meanwhile I wouldn’t be surprised being reported it happened to inspire DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince‘s ‘Boom! Shake The Room’ as well…
Besides, and although she has released 18 albums to date, ‘Clean Up Woman’ reamins nothing but Betty Wright‘s signature song at the end. A gem that pretty much showcased her Southern Soul background. With thanks to its production work by the likes of Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke. Not to mention the presence of the Memphis Horns.
‘Clean Up Woman’ stayed on the billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks. Soon after getting the Gold certification (over a 1,000,000 sales) on Dec. 30, 1971, nine days after she had turned 18.
The youngest of seven children, Miami-born Betty Wright is one of those phenomenons is not prodigees. Thus doin’ everything at an early age. From beginning her professional career at the age of two when her siblings formed Gospel group, the Echoes Of Joy. To releasing her first single ever – ‘Mr Lucky’ – on transient local label Solid Soul, aged twelve. This in addition to discovering other local talents such as George and Gwen McCrae and helping them sign with the Alston Records label, part of Henry Stone‘s TK recording and distribution company. And she would do the same back in 1978 regarding Peter Brown, eventually singing background on the memorable ‘Dance With Me’ among others.
Then would come the release of her debut-album – ‘My First Time Around’ – when she was still 14. With her first hit single being ‘Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do’. But if ever we were left with the only choice to grab a song from her, it would be ‘Clean Up Woman’. A gem that sold over a million copies and received its gold certification on Dec. 30, 1971, nine days after she turned 18.
Betty Wright struggled for some time before returnin’ to the charts. Eventually makin’ some noise with ‘Baby Sitter’ then ‘Let Me Be Your Lovemaker’. This in addition to ‘Where Is The Love’ which she co-wrote with Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch of the KC & The Sunshine Band fame. Meanwhile, another Disco flavored track charted by the likes of the Allen Toussaint penned ‘Shoorah! Shoorah! With both of them coming upg on ‘Danger! High Voltage!’, one of her most popular albums. Itself also featuring the smooth Soul lascivious ‘Tonight Is The Night’.
The end of the 70’s happened to be less successful for Betty Wright who switched to Epic as TK Records started to strugle by the beginning of the following decade. There, she delivered her eponymous album which featured the minor Stevie Wonder-composed ‘What Are You Gonna Do With It’. And that same year (in 1981), she appeared along with Richard ‘Dimples’ Fields on the memorable ‘She’s Got Papers on Me’. This as a part of his ‘Dimples’ album.
In 1983, she delivered the ‘Wright Back At You’ album filled with compositions by the likes of Marlon Jackson. And, two years later, she launched her own Miss B label. Eventually makin’ history once again in 1988 as the first Black female artist to score a gold album on her own label with ‘Mother Wit’. An effort that spanned the come-back hits ‘No Pain, No Gain’ and ‘After The Pain’.
Since then, Betty Wright has released several extra recordings while still performing successfully as a live act.