Origin: Detroit, Michigan
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Bettye LaVette has issued nine solo albums (with another on the way), seven songs on five compilation albums and recorded 37 singles between 1962 and 1997. She is best known by many fans for her top 20 R&B song, “Let Me Down Easy.” Once a 1960s Motown artist, LaVette is now signed to the Verve Record label.
When LaVette released Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook in 2010, it included unique arrangements and performances of classic rock songs and garnered the attention of the music industry. Included is the complete unedited version of her Kennedy Center Honors performance of The Who’s “Love, Reign O’er Me.” The CD was critically acclaimed and nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
LaVette’s album Worthy was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2016 for Best Blues Album. Also in 2016, LaVette won a Blues Music Award as the Soul Blues Female Artist of the Year.
On March 6, 2017, LaVette took part in a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall celebrating the music of Aretha Franklin, whom she has known since 1962. She performed a rendition of Franklin’s song “Ain’t No Way,” which she mentioned was written by Franklin to her older sister.
Her tenth album is set to drop March 30, 2018, on Verve Records. It’s an amazing set of performances.
Things Have Changed is Bettye’s first effort on a major label in nearly thirty years. It presents the legendary soul singer’s take on the songs of Bob Dylan. You hear the grit and experience that makes her one of the greatest living soul singers and world-class interpreter of one of the greatest songwriters alive. The record spans more than five decades of Dylan songs, from 1964’s immortal “The Times They Are A-Changin’” up to “Ain’t Talkin’,” the epic final track on his 2006 album Modern Times.
“Other people write songs, but he writes vignettes,” says LaVette, “more prose than poetry. I didn’t find his words to be pretty so much as they are extremely practical or extremely logical. He can work things like ‘go jump off a ledge’ into a song.”
Things Have Changed sees Dylan’s songs seriously transformed: “I had never really listened to ‘It Ain’t Me Babe,’” she says, “But I had to make it more dismissive—not fast and hard, but like a Jimmy Reed tune. And ‘The Times They Are A-Changin,’ I had to flip that all the way around, so we worked up the groove on a beat box. That just made it extremely surprising.”
To pull off these transformations, LaVette needed a producer who was up to the challenge and she found the perfect collaborator in Steve Jordan, the former drummer in David Letterman’s house band, who has worked with everyone from Chuck Berry to John Mayer. Also guesting on the album are Keith Richards and Trombone Shorty.
Grammy nominated singer Bettye LaVette has been in show business for nearly six decades. Her first single “My Man–He’s A Lovin’ Man” was released on Atlantic Records in 1962, when she was only 16 years old. She continued recording until her resurgence came in the early aughts with a series of albums of interpretations.
In 2017, Bettye appeared in the award-winning documentary film The American Epic Sessions. LaVette is married to Kevin Kiley, a recorded music and antiques dealer who is also a singer and musician. They live in West Orange, New Jersey.
K-ZAP is playing an advance of the title from Bettye’s new release, “Things Have Changed” on 93.3 FM and streaming at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/ We invite you to tune your device our way or watch the video below. Thanks!
Tell Me a Lie (1982) re-released (2008)
Not Gonna Happen Twice (1990)
A Woman Like Me (2003)
I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise (2005)
The Scene of the Crime (2007)
A Change Is Gonna Come Sessions EP (2009)
Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook (2010)
Thankful n’ Thoughtful (2012)