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Bettye LaVette at Aretha's Jazz Cafe, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Friday, December 20, 2019

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Bettye LaVette is living proof that good things come to those who wait.

The Muskegon-born singer was raised in Detroit and began her career with the 1962 hit "My Man — He's a Lovin' Man," which hit No. 7 on the Billboard R&B charts. LaVette never gave up and even acted on Broadway, but things didn't full take off until her 2003 album "A Woman Like Me," when she was into her 50s. Since then, however she's had one critically acclaimed album after another, along with Grammy Award nominations and Blues Music Awards.

And this month came news that LaVette, 73, will be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame next May in Memphis.

• Fifty-seven years into her career, LaVette says that she's "pleased to be acknowledged at all" but does wish that some of her notoriety came earlier. "On one hand I feel relieved and grateful, but on another hand I feel like nothing’s happening that should be surprising. It is what I've been working for for 57 years. I don't know how I would have felt if it happened back then, but it's now, so I'm grateful to be acknowledged and to be considered in such a small realm of people."

• LaVette notes that the Blues Foundation, which oversees the Blues Hall of Fame, "were the very first people to embrace me. I've won three Blue Awards, I've never thought of myself as a blues singer, which is why I work so hard to try and learn so many different kinds of songs. I don't know that B.B. King could have (recorded) a Bob Dylan album," which LaVette did on last year's Grammy nominated "Things Have Changed."

• LaVette has not heard from Dylan about the "Things That Change" album. "His son (Jakob Dylan) came to see me at the City Winery. I said, 'Do you think your father likes the album?' He said, 'Who knows what he thinks.' (laughs) That made me feel a little better. But if (Dylan) had said anything, just some little word, that would have helped me. For him to say absolutely nothing made me almost angry. If I ever see him I'm gonna tell him about it!"

• LaVette has finished work on her next album with producer Steve Jordan, who he says "is definitely the classic Bettye whisperer" in terms of getting work done. Her record company won't let her talk about it, but LaVette expects a spring 2020 release.

• Though she's lived in New Jersey for many years, LaVette still considers Michigan and especially Detroit to be home. "When I come back it's always so special to me. It's the only place I can go on stage and have people shout 'Betty Jo!' (her birth name). They refuse to call me anything else. We're actually trying so hard to find some place (to live) there, 'cause I would love to be home. I want to be part of the rebirth."

Bettye LaVette performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, at Aretha's Jazz Cafe in Music Hall Center, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit. Tickets are sold out. Info at 313-887-8500 or musichall.org.

Web Site: www.musichall.org

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