Betty Carter (May 16, 1930 - September 26, 1998) was a prominent American jazz singer who was renowned for her improvisational techniques. Carter expanded the role of the vocalist in Jazz, to a full, improvising member of the band. Although her voice was not as admired by the public as such vocalists as Sarah Vaughan or Ella Fitzgerald, many consider her to have exercised mastery of the human voice previously unheard in Jazz.
Carter was born Lillie Mae Jones in Flint, Michigan and grew up in Detroit, where her father led a church choir. She studied piano at the Detroit Conservatory. She won a talent contest and became a regular on the local club circuit, singing and playing piano. When she was sixteen, she sang with Charlie Parker. She later performed with Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis and toured with Lionel Hampton, (from whom she received the nickname "Betty Bepop") where she perfected her scat singing of bebop.
Her career eclipsed somewhat during the 1960s and 1970s, but a series of duets with Ray Charles brought her a measure of popular recognition. She was well-received at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1977 and 1978. Carter won a Grammy in 1988 for her album Look What I Got!.
In 1993, Carter helped launch the Jazz Ahead program for young musicians at the Kennedy Center. In 1994, she performed at the White House was a headliner at Verve's 50th anniversary celebration in Carnegie Hall.
In 1997, she was awarded a National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton.
Carter remained active in jazz music until her death in September 1998 at age 69 from pancreatic cancer.