Hailed by the New York Times as “one of the great soul interpreters of her generation”, Bettye LaVette is a vocalist who can take any type of song and make it completely her own. 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. This led to tours with headliners such as Ben E. King, Clyde McPhatter and then up-and-comer, Otis Redding. She recorded for numerous major labels, including Atco, Epic, and Motown, over the course of the 1960s through the 1980s. She also worked alongside Charles “Honi” Coles and Cab Calloway in the touring company of the Tony Award winning musical, Bubbling Brown Sugar.
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 prestigious Pioneer Award by The Rhythm & Blues Foundation, was inducted into the Detroit Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame, given an Unsung Award by the National R&B Society, and inducted into The Blues Hall of Fame by the Blues Foundation. She has received Blues Music Awards for Best Contemporary Female Blues Singer and Best Soul Blues Female Artist. Since 2002, she has released 8 albums, 5 of which have received Grammy nominations.
In 2017, she signed with Verve Records and has since recorded 2 albums, both of which were produced by Steve Jordan, were critically acclaimed, and received Grammy nominations. The first was Things Have Changed, an album consisting of all Bob Dylan songs. Her latest, Blackbirds, is Bettye’s homage to the Black female singers of the 1950s who came before her.
Fans, critics and artists have nothing but high praise for her live show and her vocal prowess. Now, at 75 years old and in her 59th year in show business, 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.
2020 saw the release of Bettye’s sophomore Verve album, Blackbirds. It consisted of primarily songs by black female singers from the 50s & 60s that were inspirational to her when she started her career. Once again, she teamed with drummer/producer Steve Jordan. She was also inducted into The Blues Hall Of Fame and received a Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Female Artist.
In 2021 Blackbirds received a Grammy Nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album. It also received a Detroit Music Award for Outstanding National Small/Independent Label Recording. Bettye also received another Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Female Artist. She also appeared on The Kennedy Center At 50 PBS Special in 2021, and made her first appearance at Farm Aid.
She has appeared on Shindig, Upbeat, SOUL!, Soul Train, National Public Radio’s World Cafe, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, and performed a Tiny Desk Concert. She has appeared in a Mississippi Public Broadcasting series, Blues Divas, and is in a film of the same name, both produced by award winning filmmaker, Robert Mugge. She has appeared several times on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, and The Tavis Smiley Show. She has also made appearances on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Lopez Tonight, Austin City Limits, The Prairie Home Companion, The Artist’s Den, Good Morning America, and The Today Show.