In the 61st year of her singing career, five-time Grammy nominee Bettye LaVette warns us that our chat will be “straight, no chaser”. And she lives up to that promise. Bettye describes her surprise backstage meeting with Bob Dylan: “He kissed me on the mouth. It was no big deal. I’ve kissed Otis Redding and David Ruffin”. Working with Keith Richards on her Things Have Changed album of Dylan songs was more fun: “We were instant friends” (other friends/fans include Jon Bon Jovi, Pete Townshend and Margo Price). She recalls the Kennedy Center Honors where she stopped the show in front of Streisand, Aretha and Beyoncé, the Jazz Café gig where she threw out an arguing couple (“You can’t come starting no fight in the middle of my show!”) and why she loves working with her own band (“I’d rather be bit in the ass by a snaggletoothed mule than go to rehearsal”). The problem with Dylan’s Emotionally Yours versus her version? (“He was trying to say I love you. But he couldn’t. It was too simple”). Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only Miss Bettye LaVette…
Bettye LaVette made her first record in 1962 at the age of sixteen. Her eclectic musical style combines elements of soul, blues, rock and roll, funk, gospel and country music. Despite recording singles and albums, touring in a Broadway musical and being a mainstay of the Northern Soul phenomenon in the UK, she didn’t begin to break through until 2003, with the release of her album A Woman Like Me (at the age of 57). Her albums The Scene of the Crime, Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, Worthy, the Bob Dylan project Things Have Changed (which Greil Marcus named Best Album of 2018) and Blackbirds were subsequently nominated for Grammy Awards. She has been a guest on countless television programmes including Letterman and Later... with Jools Holland. In 2020, Bettye was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. Her new album LaVette! is out on 16th June.
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Recorded 17th January 2023
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