Bettye LaVette was 16 when she cut her first single for Atlantic: "My Man, He's a Loving Man." "In 1962 in Detroit, that's just what you did," she has since explained, describing her Motown experience as something relatively normal for the time and place. "Everybody had a record or was cutting a record," she says. But unlike many up-and-comers, after LaVette's record came out, she hit the road, performing her songs in a package tour headlined by Ben E. King and showcasing the talents of a young singer named Otis Redding.
- Bettye LaVette
LaVette's early discography includes stunners like "Let Me Down Easy" and "He Made a Woman Out of Me," but her husky voice sounded more like Wilson Pickett than Dionne Warwick and record labels didn't always know what to do with that. Her Muscle Shoals-recorded Child of the Seventies LP was infamously shelved for 30 years while LaVette continued to record, tour, and find new audiences. She even spent six years on Broadway in the cast of the Tony-nominated musical Bubbling Brown Sugar. This week, the 72-year-old, Grammy-nominated soul survivor brings her act to the Halloran Centre where she'll perform songs from Things Have Changed, a new album of Bob Dylan covers.
Things Have Changed came about after LaVette's friend and sometimes photographer Carol Friedman pitched her on the idea of an all Dylan record. "I told her find me a record deal and I'll do it, and, damn, if she didn't come up with Verve Records," LaVette says.
"I go to my keyboard player, and I sing a song the way I want to sing it," LaVette says, describing how her distinctive arrangements come together. "He plays it that way so the band can get an indication of how I want to do the song, which usually has absolutely nothing to do with the former record."