Bettye in Belgium: December 15, 2012. Image © Hans Vangeel, Cutting Edge
Bettye LaVette and her band took Europe by storm with a December tour that covered England, France, Holland and Belgium. Bettye was lavished with praise wherever she went. The London Guardian gives a flavor of the reviews:
"Five decades of trying and often failing have left their mark on Detroit soul singer Bettye LaVette. Not only are there gravel and guts in her voice, she has a caustic survivor's wit that warns you not to trifle with her. "We've just finished the 'Who the Hell Is She?' tour, and now we're on the 50th anniversary tour." She pauses to allow applause from the audience at her sole UK show. "So I've decided to put some of the many flop records back into the show. Because, after 50 years of showbusiness and 66 years of life ..." Longer pause. "I no longer care what you think."
And why should she? For most of those years, the public were busily making stars of such Motor City contemporaries as Diana Ross, while ignoring a woman whose ability to extract pathos from a song far exceeds Ross'. Between jokes – her wit spares no one, from her grandchildren to certain singers who demand flattering pink stage lighting – LaVette gives so much of herself to the songs that she trembles.
...But her 1965 single "Let Me Down Easy" is the highlight, and as LaVette shudders through it, you imagine what could have been had success come earlier." - The Guardian (Our webmaster was there and has uploaded the video clip of "Let Me Down Easy" to YouTube.)
Bettye's appearance on the Tonight Show, with Jay Leno, fell on the same day of the release of her new CD, "Thankful N' Thoughtful", on ANTI-. Bettye's CD was produced by Craig Street and contains a collection of 12 passionately-reinterpreted songs, which is both a celebration and self-reflection of her 50th anniversary in the music business. The CD continues to garner high critical praise with The New York Times stating, "Ms. LaVette's bruised, caustic, adamant voice plunges into every line, coming through the songs as an unflinching survivor".
Following on closely with the release of her new CD, Bettye's autobiography "A Woman Like Me", came out on Sept 27, 2012.
She later released 5 previously-unavailable tracks on the limited release EP, "More Thankful, More N’ Thoughtful".
Bettye LaVette was invited to perform as part of the prestigious Ford's Theatre Annual Gala on June 3rd, 2012. This year’s event celebrated courageous American stories from the Revolutionary War to the present day through performance and song. Highlights included appearances by host Scott Bakula, soprano Anna Christy, musical duo The Civil Wars, R&B icon Bettye LaVette, actor and vocalist Matthew Morrison, and 1776 cast members Robert Cuccioli, Bobby Smith and others. Following the performance, guests dined at the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The evening also included the presentation of the Lincoln Medal to Morgan Freeman and Elie Wiesel, two individuals whose extraordinary character, accomplishments and life work reflect Lincoln’s legacy of leadership, service, humanity, wisdom, eloquence and vision. First Lady Michelle Obama served as the Honorary Chair of the gala celebration. More info
Preceding the gala, Bettye and husband Kevin Kiley, were amongst those invited to the White House to be greeted by President Obama at a special reception for supporters and the performers. (Photo courtesy of The White House.)
Dr. John and Bettye LaVette performed at the historic Harlem Apollo Theatre, joining a host of luminaries from across the music and entertainment world. The night included appearances from Quincy Jones, U2's Bono, Macy Gray and former Saturday Night Live star Darrell Hammond, coming together for the eleventh annual Jazz Foundation of America benefit gala, A Great Night in Harlem.
For the past 22 years the Jazz Foundation of America (JFA) has played a vital role in supporting American musicians who hail from the culturally rich roots of jazz and blues. JFA's mission is to help those who have dedicated their lives to their art and then find themselves in times of crisis. The JFA handles up to 6,000 cases annually ranging from Emergency Assistance programs to providing access to essential medical providers, allowing vulnerable artists to get back on their feet and back to making music.
I was honored to be a part of The 30th Annual John Lennon Tribute - live from the Beacon Theatre, NYC. The project was organized by Theatre Within and alll proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross. I also had the privilege of being asked to contribute a song to the 4 CD set, Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan - honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. My track, "Most Of The Time", is a previously unreleased track and was recorded during the I've Got My Own Hell To Raise CD sessions. Proceeds go to Amnesty International.
Performing at Radio City Music Hall for the David Lynch Foundation's "Change Begins Within" Benefit Concert. Mouse-Over: Ringo, Bettye & Paul / Paul McCartney, David Lynch, Ringo Starr and Bettye LaVette attend the press conference. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
"Ms. LaVette’s bruised, caustic, adamant voice plunges into every line, coming through the songs as an unflinching survivor." - New York Times
"The life story of this soul singer is destined for the big screen… LaVette’s candid story is also a window into the early years of Motown." – New York Post