Bettye LaVette is no mere singer. She is an interpreter of the highest order. Whether the song originated as country, rock, pop, 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. To quote the late, great George Jones: “Bettye is truly a ‘singer’s singer’ “.
Her career began in 1962, at the age of 16, in Detroit, Michigan. Her first single “My Man – He’s a Loving Man”, was released on Atlantic Records. She recorded for numerous major labels, including Atco, Epic, and Motown, over the course of the 1960s through the 1980s.
The 2000’s started what she calls her “Fifth Career”. Her CD, A Woman Like Me, won the W.C. Handy Award in 2004 for Comeback Blues Album of the Year. She was also given a prestigous Pioneer Award by The Rhythm & Blues Foundation. She has received Blues Music Awards for Best Contemporary Female Blues Singer and Best Soul Blues Female Artist. She recorded 4 CDs for hipster indie label ANTI- Records over the course of 8 years, 2 of which received Grammy nominations. Her 2015 CD, Worthy, was also nominated for a Grammy.
She performed a critically acclaimed version of “Love Reign O’er Me” at The Kennedy Center Honors in a tribute to The Who. She also performed “A Change Is Gonna Come” as a duet with Jon Bon Jovi for President elect Barack Obama on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
In 2018 she released Things Have Changed, an album of all Bob Dylan songs, for Verve Records. It received two Grammy nominations, one for Best Americana Album, and one for the song “Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight” for Best Traditional R&B Performance.
Fans, critics and artists have nothing but high praise for her live show and her vocal prowess. Now, at 73 years old, she is still performing with the ferocity of a woman half her age. She is one of very few of her contemporaries who were recording during the birth of soul music in the 1960s and is still creating vital recordings today.