Betty Willis (singer)
|Birth name||Betty Jane Willis|
|Born||March 10, 1941|
Mississippi, United States
|Origin||Santa Ana, California|
|Died||January 1, 2018 (aged 76)|
Santa Ana, California
|Genres||Soul music, rhythm and blues|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, postal worker|
Betty Jane Willis (March 10, 1941 – January 1, 2018) was an American soul singer in the 1960s.
Born on a farm in Mississippi, Willis moved with her family to Fresno, California, when she was two. In the early 1960s, she moved to Santa Ana and sang in Los Angeles-area nightclubs. Singer Bill Medley, whose career with The Righteous Brothers was just beginning, was told about Willis. Medley and Willis recorded a song together at Gold Star Studios, but it was never released. However, her voice and association with the studio drew notice from producers Phil Spector and Leon Russell, who retooled the country song "Act Naturally" into a rhythm and blues version for Willis in 1965. As part of the duo Betty and Ray, with Ray Lockhart, she also made several other recordings. Her last known recording was in 1968.
According to her daughter, Willis enjoyed a singing career but did not want to be part of the music industry. She also grew frustrated when paperwork was mishandled that scuttled an Africa music tour. She briefly worked in a factory before becoming a postal worker in the 1980s and retired after 37 years.
Early on January 1, 2018, Willis was assaulted by a homeless man who attempted to rape her. She was hit repeatedly on the head and strangled to death, before police arrived to apprehend her attacker. Willis was 76.
- Walker, Theresa (January 4, 2018). "Who was Betty Jane Willis? More than another homeless death, she was a soul singer". Orange County Register. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- "Homeless man charged with killing former '60s soul singer Betty Jane Willis". CBS News. January 4, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2018.