Two time Grammy nominee Bettye LaVette is no mere singer. Bettye is an interpreter of the highest order. Whether the song originated as country, rock, pop, jazz or blues, when she gets through with it, it is pure R&B. She gets inside a song and shapes and twists it to convey all of the emotion that can be wrought from the lyric.
Bettye is one of very few of her contemporaries who were recording during the birth of soul music in the 60s and is still creating vital recordings today. Her live performances are a must see. She makes her audience feel whatever she is singing about, often leaving grown men in tears
She was born Betty Jo Haskins on January 29,1946, in Muskegon, Michigan. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Bettye did not get her start in the church, but was weaned on the C&W and R&B records of the time that were playing on the juke box in her parent’s living room.
In 1962, at the age of 16, she became Bettye LaVette. Her first single was « My Man–He’s a Loving Man » on Atlantic Records. The record charted #7 R&B and put her on her first national tour, with Ben E. King, Clyde McPhatter, and other Atlantic stars of the time. She continued recording throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s including stints on Atco, Epic, and Motown.
She worked alongside Charles « Honi » Coles, and Cab Calloway in the Toni Award winning Broadway musical, « Bubbling Brown Sugar » in the role of Sweet Georgia Brown.
Her « resurgence » in the 21st Century is an amazing tale of perseverence.
2004 – Her CD, A Woman Like Me won the W.C. Handy Award for « Comeback Blues Album of the Year ».
2005 – She signed with ANTI- Records and released the critically acclaimed CD, I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise, consisting of songs that were written by women.
2006 – She won the prestigious Pioneer Award from The Rhythm & Blues Foundation.
2007 – Brought her together with alt-rock group Drive-By Truckers for the Grammy nominated CD, The
Scene of The Crime.
2008 – She received the Blues Music Award for « Best Contemporary Female Blues Singer ». She also performed a critically acclaimed version of « Love Reign O’er Me » at The Kennedy Center Honors in a tribute to The Who.
2009 – She performed « A Change Is Gonna Come » with Jon Bon Jovi on HBO’s telecast of Barack Obama’s kick-off Inaugural concert, « We Are One » on the steps of The Lincoln Memorial.
2010 – Her CD, Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook garnered her a second Grammy nomination.
2012 – Marked her 50th year in show business. It also saw the release of both a new album, Thankful N’ Thoughtful, and her autobiography, A Woman Like Me, written with David Ritz. The book is currently being developed as a feature film by producing partners John Wells (« The West Wing », « ER », etc) and Alicia Keys’ company AKW.
2013 – Bettye appeared in the main title sequence of the AMC series “Low WInter Sun” performing the series’ theme song, “Hustlin’ In The Motor City », which she also co-wrote.
2015 – She co-produced, along with Joe Henry, a new CD, Worthy, perhaps her most personal album to date.
To quote LaVette: « And still I rise! »