Call her the queen of blues soul and you wouldn’t want to fool her at all because that’s who she is – Queen of Soul music. Over her six-decade musical career, Bettye LaVette has released hit singles, sung with music icons like Otis Redding, performed in an award-winning musical, and performed at the opening night of former United States President Barack Obama in 2009 alongside pop singer Jon Bon Jovi.
Despite stopping her first album at sixteen, the queen of Soul Blue, however, considers her last album Things have changed (2018) to be her achievement. Learn more about Bettye LaVette with these six interesting facts.
6 Interesting Facts You Should Know About Bettye LaVette
LaVette was born in Muskegon, Michigan on January 29, 1946 to the late Frank and Pearl Haskins as Betty Jo Haskins and was raised in Detriot. Unlike Aretha Franklin and many other music icons who started their singing careers in the church, Bettye has a different story: she started making a splash in her father’s living room and she owes her successes to her parents who encouraged her in her singing aspirations.
Her preferences when she started singing were western music, country music and R&B. Seeing her potentials, a local record producer, Johnnie Mae Matthews, signed her. In 1962, at the age of 16, Bettye LaVette dropped her first single “My Man – He’s a Lovin’ Man” on Johnnie Mae Matthews’ label.
The single became an R&B Top 10 that year after Atlantic Records purchased its distribution rights. Building on this success, she began touring with R&B stars such as Barbara Lynn, Clyde McPhatter, Otis Redding and Ben E. King. She dropped her next single “Let Me Down Easy,” which also charted in 1965 with Calla Records.
After releasing a few singles on the local label in 1969, Bettye LaVette was signed 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 landed it among the top 40 R&B hits.
After several singles, 1972 LaVette decided to make a full album and in an effort to achieve that she signed with Atlantic/Atco and was sent to Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Alabama to record ‘Child of the Seventies’ which was supposed to be his debut album but Atco chose not to release the album. Her debut album would later be Tell Me A Lie, released in 1982 on 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 more.
Obama’s Inauguration Party
Avid Obama supporter Bettye LaVette told mlive.com that her request to perform at the former President of the United States’ inauguration party in 2009 was the best thing that ever happened to her.
At the inaugural celebration held at the Lincoln Memorial that year, Bettye and Jon Bon Jovi took center stage performing Sam Cooke’s 1964 song “A Change Is Gonna Come” to an audience of ‘about eight hundred thousand people, including the first family at the time and millions of other people who had watched the event on TVs and believe it, this performance revitalized the R&B singer who seemed until then being forgotten and the glory days of her career behind her.
In April of that year, the Blues Queen of Soul performed backstage alongside Ringo Starr and Sir Paul McCartney at the David Lynch Foundation’s ‘Change Begins Within’ benefit concert, which was held at Radio City. Music Hall. Later that year, Sundazed Music released the album ‘Do Your Duty’ on CD, which consisted of eleven solo tracks by LaVette and a six-song EP, The Change Will Come Sessions which cannot be downloaded.
In 2015, she released the album Worthy which earned her a 2016 Grammy Award nomination for Best Blues. Later that year, she won a blues music award as Soul Blues Female Artist of the Year.
In 2018, she was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame. then she dropped another album Things Have Changed which not only earned her the Best Americana Album nomination at the 61st 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 living together in West Orange, New Jersey. There is no information if they have children together or adopted.