In 1967, the teen was responsible for discovering other local talents such as George and Gwen McCrae, helping them sign with the Alston Records label TK Records, part of Henry Stone's recording and distribution company. Her first album, My First Time Around, was released when she was age 14. Her first hit single was "Girls Can't Do What the Guys Do". In 1970, while still in high school, she released "Pure Love" at the age of 16.
About a year later, Wright released her signature song "Clean Up Woman", written by Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke and recorded when she was 17. The record reached number two on the R&B charts, where it stayed for eight weeks. It crossed over to the pop charts, peaking at number six and staying on the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks. It eventually sold over 1 million copies and was certified gold on December 30, 1971, nine days after the singer turned 18. Wright struggled with a successful follow-up until 1972 when the single "Baby Sitter" (one of Wright's first compositions) reached the top 50 of the Hot 100 and peaked at number six on the R&B charts. Another hit that emerged during this early period was 1973's "Let Me Be Your Lovemaker", which peaked at number 55 on the Hot 100 and number 10 on the R&B chart, it was the first instance (after "Baby Sitter") where Wright showed off her powerful whistle register vocals. Another successful composition was the proto-disco number "Where Is the Love" (co-written by Wright, with producers Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, from KC & The Sunshine Band). This peaked at number 15 on the R&B chart, number-two on the dance charts and crossed over to the UK, peaking at #25, leading Wright to perform overseas. Wright later won the Best R&B Song Grammy Award for composing "Where Is the Love".
A second prominent overseas hit was another proto-disco number "Shoorah! Shoorah!", issued on Alston and written by Allen Toussaint. Both songs appeared on one of Wright's most popular albums, Danger! High Voltage!, released in late 1974. It was on this album that Wright had her most successful composition, with the smooth soul ballad "Tonight Is the Night", which Wright attributed to her first sexual experiences. The original version peaked at number 28 on the R&B chart. Four years later, Wright released a "live" version of the song. The remodeled version, which included a now-famous monologue and portions of Wright's 1970 hit "Pure Love", peaked at number 11 on the R&B chart in 1978.
In 1977, Wright discovered musician Peter Brown and sang background on Brown's hits "You Should Do It" and "Dance with Me" (where her vocals were prominently featured alongside Brown's) from the successful LP A Fantasy Love Affair. In 1978, she performed a duet with shock rocker Alice Cooper on the song "No Tricks", and a year later, opened for Bob Marley on the reggae star's Survival Tour.