First of all these two ladies are far more than the wives of famous musicians. Betty Davis & Alice Coltrane were the equals of their counterparts in more ways than one. We are fortunate to still have one of these illustrious women amongst us and shouldn’t forget their contributions.
“If Betty were singing today she’d be something like Madonna; something like Prince, only as a woman. She was the beginning of all that when she was singing as Betty Davis. She was just ahead of her time.”
I have to say, the descriptions written about Betty Davis annoy the heck out of me. They’ve fashioned this narrative of a woman who was talented, beautiful, innovative and confident, but she has been constantly referred to as “wild”. It’s demeaning and sexist to state emphatically that a young woman of the age of 23 in the 1960’s-70’s was out of control. If she were a man, no such pejorative would be used. She’s also continually tied to her former husband (yeah I used a quote of his as well) who was the epitome of “wild”, if we are to apply the same standards, no? Miles was a drug addict and abusive towards women. So much so that Pearl Cleage wrote the book Mad At Miles: A Black Woman’s Guide To Truth lambasting him for his misogyny. So don’t get it twisted.
Betty refused to be put in a box and went against the hypocritical black community code of self-actualization denied black women to this day. The fact that the NAACP protested against her (and plenty of other black women) also reiterates their long-standing black woman hatred. I’ve listened to the reissues of her albums and have two of them. While her expression of her individual sexuality is frank, it is certainly not vulgar. Nor has she denigrated the image of black women. If we were free – or felt free enough to express the range of our identity it would be par for the course.
The Sound of Young America has a podcast with Betty Davis. Her first interview in decades.
You might enjoy —
Alice Coltrane (1937-2007) —
Though she had long ceased using that name except for music-related events and used her spiritual name Swamini Turiyasangitananda, Coltrane was a well-respected spiritual leader. She still performed occasionally where videos abound on Youtube:
A few tidbits:
2nd wife of John Coltrane ( I see a trend in that Betty was also a 2nd wife)
An accomplished musician in her own right she played piano, harp, vibraphone, organ and a was a music composer.
She lived in Paris where she studied classical music
Established the Vedanta Center in SF and Los Angeles then the Sai Anantam Ashram in Chumash Pradesh near Malibu.
Per wikipedia —
In 1994, Coltrane appeared on the Red Hot Organization‘s compilation CD, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. The album, meant to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic in African American society was named “Album of the Year” by Time Magazine. (Which is how I found out about her).
Swamini Turiyasangitananda (Alice Coltrane) on jazz, God & the spiritual path interview in Ascent Magazine. Excerpted here —
“One of the directives given to me was to start the Ashram. I felt I could serve in any way that God wished. If He wants you to do charity work or humanitarian work or however He wishes to utilize you, maybe just talking or giving musical concerts is fine. Many people have a musical ministry. Whatever was ordered, I would have been happy to receive.”
“We all have the right to know the truth, but if we want to believe in the negative and in the limitation, that’s where we stay. We bring this into the subconscious, and say, “Oh, I could never go that high. Oh, I could never know about those things. Oh no, I’m too afraid, oh no, I can’t meditate, my mind is far too busy, filled with all kinds of negative thoughts.” Well, if you want to stay bound, you cannot expect to rise above those thoughts. If you give yourself a chance, a chance to be sincere… I believe you will succeed whoever you are.”
In case you’re wondering what a Swami is:
The word swami means master; it means striving for the mastery over one’s smaller self and habit patterns, so that the eternal Self within may come shining through. The act of becoming a swami is not so much an acting of becoming, of adding on, of allegiance, as it is an act of setting aside, of renunciation. A swami is a monk, one who has set aside all of the limited, worldly pursuits, so as to devote full time effort to the direct experience of the highest spiritual realization, and to the service of others along those lines. Renunciation is not anti-world, in any sense of the world being a bad place. Rather, it is a matter of priorities about how one will spend his or her time, the twenty-four hours in a day, and the seven days in a week.
Upanishads are Philosophy, Not Religion
A dependent mind is not free, and without freedom, enlightenment is impossible. Religious dogmas are full of beliefs and myths that do not satisfy the human intellect and that bind believers to a narrow view of life and human potential. Such preachings instill more fear than love in the hearts of the masses. Religion either promises salvation or threatens the tortures of hell, but it does not provide sound solutions to the hellish problems and situations that plague human beings here and now.
New York Times Obit:
Ms. Coltrane met her guru, Swami Satchidananda, in 1970, and in more recent years became a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba. By the early 1970s she developed a renewed interest in the organ, because it produced a continuous sound; she wanted to make a meditative music that wouldn’t be interrupted by pauses for breath. Her 1972 record, “Universal Consciousness,” with Ms. Coltrane on Wurlitzer organ and string arrangements by Ornette Coleman, became a far-out classic.