Call her the Queen of Soul Blues and you wouldn’t be wrong at all because that is who she is – the Queen of Soul music. In her musical career that has spanned six decades, Bettye LaVette has released hit singles, sung with music icons in the likes of Otis Redding, starred in an award-winning musical and performed at the former U.S President Barack Obama’s inauguration party in 2009 alongside pop singer Jon Bon Jovi.
Despite dropping her debut album at the age of sixteen, the Queen of Soul Blue, however, considers her latest album Things Have Changed (2018) to be her crowning achievement. Learn more about Bettye LaVette in these six interesting facts.
6 Interesting Facts You Need To Know About Bettye LaVette
LaVette was born in Muskegon, Michigan on the 29th of January 1946 to late Frank and Pearl Haskins as Betty Jo Haskins and was raised in Detriot. Unlike Aretha Franklin and many other music icons who started off their singing career in the church, Bettye has a different story – she started her singing sensation in her parents living room and she says she owes her successes to her parents who encouraged her singing aspirations.
Her preferences at the time she began singing were Western music, country music, and R&B. Seeing her potentials, a local record producer Johnnie Mae Matthews signed her on and in 1962 at the age of sixteen, Bettye LaVette dropped her first single “My Man — He’s a Lovin’ Man” under Johnnie Mae Matthews’ record label.
The single became a Top 10 R&B that year after Atlantic Records bought its distribution rights. With this success, she began a tour with R&B stars like Barbara Lynn, Clyde McPhatter, Otis Redding and Ben E. King. She dropped her next hit single “Let Me Down Easy” which also made it to the chart list in 1965 with Calla records.
After releasing a couple of singles under local Detriot Record labels, in 1969, Bettye LaVette signed on to the Silver Fox label where she released a handful of tracks including “Do Your Duty” and “He Made A Woman Out Of Me” which made it to the Top 40 R&B hits.
After several singles, 1972, LaVette decided to do a full album and in the bid to achieve this, she signed back with Atlantic/Atco and was sent to Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Alabama to record “Child of the Seventies” which was supposed to be her first album but Atco for some reasons chose not to issue the album. Her first album would later be Tell Me A Lie, released in 1982 under the Motown Record Label. This was followed by other albums including A Woman Like Me, I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise and many others.
Obama’s Inauguration Party Performance
Bettye LaVette who was a staunch Obama supporter told mlive.com that being asked to perform at the former U.S President’s inauguration party in 2009 was the greatest thing that’s ever happened to her.
At the inaugural celebration which held at the Lincoln Memorial that year, Bettye alongside Jon Bon Jovi took the center stage performing Sam Cooke’s 1964 song “A Change Is Gonna Come” before a live audience of about eight hundred thousand including the then first family and millions of other people who viewed the event from the TVs and believe it, this performance revitalized the R&B singer who until that point seemed to had been forgotten and her career’s glory days behind.
By April of that same year, the Queen of Soul Blues was upstage performing alongside Ringo Starr and Sir Paul McCartney at the David Lynch Foundation’s “Change Begins Within” benefit concert which took place at the Radio City Music Hall. Later that year, Sundazed Music released on CD the album “Do Your Duty” which consisted eleven of LaVette’s solo tracks and a six-song EP, Change Is Gonna Come Sessions which could only be downloaded.
In 2015, she released the album Worthy which earned her a 2016 Grammy Awards Nomination for Best Blues. Later that year, she won a Blues Music Award as the Soul Blues Female Artist of the Year.
In 2018, she was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame; and then she dropped another album Things Have Changed which earned her not just Best Americana Album nomination at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards but also Best Traditional R&B Performance.
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Bettye LaVette has been married to an antique dealer and singer named Kevin Kiley since 2003 and they live together in West Orange, New Jersey. There is no info if they have any kids together or adopted any.