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Bettye LaVette enjoying wider late-career recognition

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011

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With her career turning 50 next year, Michigan-born R&B and pop singer Bettye LaVette is happy to not just be still around but also more widely recognized than she’s been throughout most of her life.

“To go so long without hearing my name mentioned to suddenly having it bandied about the way it is, it’s wonderful,” says LaVette, 65, who had her first hit in 1962 with “My Man — He’s a Lovin’ Man” but revived her career with the 2005 album “I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise.” Last year’s “Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

And LaVette says she’s still up to meet the demands of her increased popularity.

“I’m in pretty good shape,” reports LaVette, who was born in Muskegon and lived in Detroit for a time. “I don’t feel tired unless they pick on me; we just did seven countries and nine concerts in 14 days, so that was a bit much. And I don’t feel like I have as much time to do anything I’m asked to do. But I know those are good problems to have, too. Other people, even some of my contemporaries, have it worse.”

LaVette hasn’t decided on a next album yet; she’s working up a one-woman retrospective show that will premiere later this month at New York’s Cafe Carlyle and that she hopes can wind up being a touring production.

“It costs a lot of money to do it the way I’d like to — it will need production, direction, choreography,” says LaVette, who appeared on Broadway in “Bubbling Brown Sugar.” “I don’t like to record, really, and I don’t like to rehearse. I’m basically a nightclub singer, never bound by anything or boxed into, like, ‘Here comes a blues singer. Here comes a rock ’n’ roll singer.’

“I had no records to be faithful to — that anybody knew, at least. I’ve just been faithful to what I wanted to do on stage all these years, and that made me a broader artist.”

Bettye LaVette performs at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 8, at The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $27.50. Call 734-761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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