As a model in 1966, American funk and soul singer Betty Mabry first met jazz musician Miles Davis, who was 19 years her senior. At the time he was separated from his first wife, dancer Frances Davis, and was dating actress Cicely Tyson. Betty began dating Miles in early 1968, and they were married in September 1968.
In just one year of marriage, Betty influenced him greatly by introducing him to the fashions and the new popular music trends of the era. In his autobiography, Miles credited Betty with helping to plant the seeds of his future musical explorations by introducing the trumpeter to psychedelic rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix and funk innovator Sly Stone. The Miles Davis album Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968), which features a photo portrait of Betty on the cover, includes a song named after her.
In his autobiography, Miles said Betty was “too young and wild,” and accused her of having an affair with Jimi Hendrix, which hastened the end of their marriage. Betty denied the affair stating, “I was so angry with Miles when he wrote that. It was disrespectful to Jimi and to me. Miles and I broke up because of his violent temper.” After accusing her of adultery, he filed for divorce in 1969. Miles told Jet magazine at the time that the divorce was obtained on a “temperament” charge. He added, “I’m just not the kind of cat to be married.”
Hendrix and Miles remained close, planning to record, until Hendrix’s death. The influence of Hendrix and especially Sly Stone on Miles Davis was obvious on the album Bitches Brew (1970), which ushered in the era of jazz fusion. The origin of the album’s title is unknown, but some believe Miles was subtly paying tribute to Betty and her girlfriends. In fact, it is said that he originally wanted to call the album Witches Brew—it was Betty who convinced him to change it.
A set of rare photos shows beautiful moments of Miles Davis and his wife Betty Davis together during their short marriage.