Whitney died on Dec. 22 of complications from pneumonia in her hometown of Kansas City, Kan., her manager told the newspaper.
After singing with the Manning Gospel Singers, the Alma Whitney Singers and Tommy & the Derby's, she joined the James Brown Revue in 1967. Whitney had her own segment during concerts and sang duets with Brown. She was with the group for many memorable performances, including in Vietnam for American soldiers and in Boston the night following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.
Whitney also went solo on Brown's King Records, recording hits such as "Unwind Yourself" and "It's My Thing (You Can't Tell Me Who to Sock It to)", both of which were later sampled by the hip-hop community.
Whitney left the Revue in 1969 and later performed as part of the J.B. All Stars with other members of Brown's bands. She released an album in 2006 entitled I Am What I Am with a Japanese funk group. She suffered a stroke while performing onstage in Australia three years later.
In recent years, she was working on an autobiography, God, the Devil & James Brown: Memoirs of a Funky Diva, which is set to be published this year.
Whitney is survived by her mother, Willa Mae Manning, five brothers, two children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.