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With one of her first singles turning into a national hit, 1962’s “Let Me Down Easy”, Detroit-raised LaVette would seem a natural soul star, but she was never able to cut an album deal. In 1972 her album A Child of the Seventies was shelved by Atlantic Records, then thought lost forever in a fire. She eked out a living on the European festival circuit, occasionally surfacing such as with the disco single “Doin’ the Best that I Can”, but remained obscure until French soul collector Gilles Petard tracked down the lost masters and persuaded Atlantic to let him release them on his vanity label as Souvenirs. A live album and 2005’s cover album I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise followed.
With the release of The Scene of the Crime, Bettye Lavette inches closer to the mainstream, or at least a much bigger cult following. Backed by The Drive-By Truckers and released on -Anti, The Scene of the Crime is recorded at the legendary FAME studios in Muscles Shoals, Alabama. The same place as her lost album. The connection doesn’t end there - Patterson Hood of the Drive-by Truckers is the son of David Hood, who played on the 1972 album.
In 2009, she appeared at President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Celebration, singing “A Change Is Gonna Come” with Jon Bon Jovi. It was televised globally.
In May 2010 her 3rd ANTI- CD, Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook was released to rave reviews. The concept was conceived by her husband, music maven Kevin Kiley, who was inspired by the critical acclaim that she received after her performance of "Love Reign O'er Me" at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2008. As the title implies, she re-invents songs from the British bands who were initially influenced by American r&b music. Bettye co-produced the record along with Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens, a relationship born at the Kennedy Center Honors and the We Are One events. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Blues Album”
She has appeared on National Public Radio's World Cafe, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, and performed a Tiny Desk Concert. She has appeared in a Mississippi Public Broadcasting series, Blues Divas, and is in a film of the same name, both produced by award winning film maker, Robert Mugge. She has also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, The Conan O'Brien Show, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Lopez Tonight, Austin City Limits, The Prairie Home Companion, The Artist's Den, Good Morning America, The Today Show and The Tavis Smiley Show.
Late 2012 saw the release of her album, "Thankful N' Thoughtful", and her autobiography, variously described as 'engrosing', 'riveting', 'hair-raising' and only suitable for the over 18s, "A Woman Like Me", co-written with David Ritz, author of books on R&B legends Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye.
Looking for more information including sound and video clips? Go "beyond the bio" with The Artistic Director's Guide to Jazz.