Thankful N’ Thoughtful

 

 

 

 

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Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues) on Bettye LaVette.

"Nights in White Satin" has been covered many times, never more movingly than by soul singer Bettye LaVette. When I heard her version the first time, I was sitting at my computer one morning, and I burst into tears," Suddenly it all made sense to me. I had written it at age 19, going on 20, and it was like I had heard it for the first time at age 65. That was very refreshing."
- Justin Hayward

"With every new song, Bettye finds the thread that first will unravel it. Then she stitches it all back together until it fits her taut frame and fierce stride, until it bends to meet her; until each song’s story is somehow, miraculously, telling her own."
- Joe Henry (Producer of I've Got My Own Hell To Raise & Worthy)

"Wow! I got chills when I listened to Bettye LaVette’s version of Choices. I can only hope that my version created a similar sensation. Her interpretation is so soulful, and conveys the feelings I had when I recorded the song – the thoughts that I had about some of the mistakes or choices I had made. She did an incredible job, and she is truly a ‘singer’s singer."
- George Jones

"You've got a singer here who is willing to stretch and not content to live in the safety zone. One of R&B's greatest under-acknowledged vocalists."
- Elvis Costello

"Bettye is one of the most incredible R&B singers singing today. Ache has never sounded so funky. Weary, wise, defiant and vulnerable, Bettye's a force of nature." 
- Bonnie Raitt

"Somehow she got lost in the tail end of the soul era - perhaps she was just too ferocious for white taste - but she certainly is and was the greatest female soul singer, in a hard-core vein."
- Ry Cooder

“One of the things I love about her is she doesn’t waste a syllable. It’s so lean - no technique to show you what she can do. She knows her voice, understands it - and she cuts through not just the speakers, but right under your skin. Every note rings true.” 
- Don Was

“We showed up for rehearsal, and one of the performers was rehearsing the song for the Who segment. It was a woman named Bettye LaVette… She is gonna steal the show. She was so phenomenal, this performance of The Who song that she did. It will bring you to tears. The room was pin-drop silent when she did this song, and it was just unbelievable” 
- Dave Grohl 

"No one woman, from any time or place, has all the attributes of a great singer in one voice like Bettye LaVette."
- Dennis Walker (Producer of A Woman Like Me) 

“Hands down, she’s probably the greatest living interpreter on this planet... there’s nobody who can bring that much of a personal read to other people’s material.” 
- Craig Street (Producer of Thankful N' Thoughtful)

“Her voice is what survival sounds like. She’s a survivor and you can hear it when she sings. The actual physical voice of what that is - there are many artists from that era who lived to tell, but no one sounds like that. When she sings ‘Talking Old Soldiers,’ it’s like DeNiro in a scene in a movie, but it’s just her voice, a piano and a couple things. So stark and all her scratch vocals are better than most people do after a lifetime.”
- Patterson Hood (co-Producer of The Scene of The Crime)

"Bettye LaVette has always been a wonderful singer – I have been a huge fan for many years. To my delight and surprise she recorded an amazing version of “Talking Old Soldiers” – a song which nobody else has covered, and made it her own. Now she has recorded “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” and has done exactly the same – but this time with a much more familiar song. I am truly touched by her picking these songs and can only hope that this album brings more attention to this incredible artist." 
- Elton John 

"Some singers sing... Then there is Bettye. She doesn’t just sing the song, she lives in each of them. I’ve heard it. I’ve stood close enough to see it in her eyes." 
- Jon Bon Jovi

"She is an R&B singer from the gospel tradition; her voice is hard-worked and reminiscent of many of the great and older singers who have preceded her. But she has a depth of emotional understanding that surpasses what many of those singers did in the R&B world back in the ’60s and ’70s. Bettye has brought the old methods of her genre into the modern world in a new way... She is reinventing and reclaiming a soul-singing tradition all at once. What she is doing is pure and authentic... Bettye LaVette’s experiencem, scope and wisdom as a singer and performer have arrived in the middle of a world of darkly disturbing musical diversity and confusion like a stake in the heart of a vampire." 
- Pete Townshend

"Bettye LaVette is a huge influence on the world of R&B. I’ve followed her since “Let Me Down Easy” in the mid ’60s. She is blessed with an instantly recognizable voice full of power and emotion. At this point in her long and illustrious career I’m honored and very happy to hear her version of “No Time To Live.” 
- Steve Winwood

"When you hear a voice like Bettye LaVette’s there’s a sense of transportation (NOT to a penal colony!), but a certain freedom of movement and emotion, which is rare. Especially to me and I suspect other Englishmen who were so fascinated by the music that is so natural to Bettye while we were still getting our feet wet. Put me in the fan club! How did Bettye LaVette slip thru the net for so long?" 
- Keith Richards

"Bettye LaVette’s voice is like an authentic beacon in a world of artifice." 
- James Taylor

“I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Bettye LaVette perform live. It is, quite frankly, humbling. The only thing that any singer hopes to achieve is to put themselves and their emotions into the songs they sing. Bettye has made this an art form, leaving the listener actually a bit shaken from the honesty that she puts into her performance.” 
- Rob Thomas 

"I’ve been on the same stage with Bettye LaVette twice in the last year and have been captivated each time. On her new album, Bettye finds her own way into these legendary songs yet still is able to remain faithful to the spirit in each of them. Her unique phrasing and raw honesty enables us to appreciate the words in these classics in a whole new way. Just a master class in song interpretation." 
- Sheryl Crow

"A wonderful vocal interpretation from a true original. She sets a supremely high standard and never falls below it."
- Chris Youlden (Savoy Brown)

"Bettye LaVette drives the roots of a song still deeper into some underground spring that makes everything burst and flame into smoldering bloom. Some singers let a songwriter hear their work again as if for the first time. Bettye has that gift."
- Linford Detweiler & Karin Bergquist (Over the Rhine)

"I'm so honored that Bettye chose to record my song, "Where a Life Goes". With her strong and powerful delivery, the song has a new life. She brings the understanding and intimacy that comes from feeling the mystery of losing someone you love."
- Randall Bramblett

"As a songwriter, I've been both overjoyed and dismayed from time to time. I'm happy to tell you that, on this occasion, I was flabbergasted - I love it! The Lioness whispers, purrs, growls, moans, and roars. She nailed it. I can't remember when I've been so pleased with a cover of one of my songs."
- James Hooker (Amazing Rhythm Aces)

“Bettye Lavette sings Worthy with the authority, passion and intensity that comes from having both lived, and not lived the words. With Worthy, Bettye Lavette sings us back home, to ourself.”
- Mary Gauthier

"For a songwriter there is no greater thrill than to hear your song lifted up into the voice of a master like Bettye Lavette, whose transcendent delivery of “Worthy” touches deep to the core with vulnerability, strength, and the wisdom of someone who has lived every word."
- Beth Nielsen Chapman

 

 

IN THE MEDIA:

"There are dozens of really top-drawer female Soul singers in what is a highly competitive field, but few can match the flawless totality of conveyed experience that Bettye LaVette never fails to achieve. She is the consummate artist who can relate on every level. Take Bettye LaVette away from Soul music’s history and there is a gap which no other person I can think of could have filled." 
- Dave Godin, the late, esteemed English soul music writer/historian

"Tortuous soul at it's most raw and almost frightening in it's intensity." 
- Juke Blues

"One of the very finest, most soul-drenched voices of any era." 
- In The Basement

"As I listened to Bettye's wrenching performance, the song became intenesly personal... And that is the power of Bettye LaVette, the ability to reflect real life through her gift. Ain't no one like her and if anyone ever asks for a definition of soul, Bettye LaVette is it. No need for a title, no need for a nickname, she's the real thing."
- David Nathan, The British Soul Ambassador

"Ms. LaVette is one of the greatest soul singers in American music history" 
- Rob Bowman, music writer/historian

"There's no one more soulful than Bettye LaVette…Bettye makes great music now because of her obstacles. She has a fire in her belly and a passion that was never squashed over the years... you just hear it and feel it in everything she sings." 
- CNN

"Is there any soul singer who brings more guts, more conviction and more emotion to her singing?" 
- NPR

“The High Priestess of R&B…It’s astonishing to hear what depths can be found in these songs… LaVette inhabits these tunes, wraps her skin around them like some kind of song-eating monster. There’s something so deeply human going on here that it’s incantatory, so distinct that it’s indelible. So true that it dares to be ugly sometimes. So right that it can cause you pain.” 
- The Huffington Post

"LaVette is the last great vernacular black singer." 
- The New Yorker

"Bettye LaVette is the sexiest female vocalist alive.Her voice is elegance and abandon, complete control and total chaos. Which makes her not just the sexiest 59-year-old on the planet but also the best definition of a soul singer since Janis Joplin and Tina Turner." 
- Esquire

“Is there a more wrenching soul singer alive than Bettye LaVette? If so, keep it to yourself, because I’m too wrung out from Crime’s intensity to take anything more emotionally potent.” 
- Entertainment Weekly 

"Raw. Gritty. Gut wrenching... one of R&B's best kept secrets." 
- Billboard

"LaVette's nuanced singing evokes prime Tina Turner with even more command." 
- Rolling Stone

“Ms. LaVette, 64, now rivals Aretha Franklin as her generation’s most vital soul singer. She uses every scrape, shout and break in her raspy voice, with a predator’s sense of timing, to seize the drama of a song.” 
- The New York Times

"Her vocals come from so deep in the gut, you could get a hernia just by listening. Yet LaVette's rip-roaring instrument also remains beauteous to behold." 
- The New York Daily News

“Though she’s gritty and loves to testify, she never overdoes it.” 
- The Village Voice

"Ms. LaVette not only makes each lyric part of her personal experience, but part of ours as well." 
- The Wall Street Journal

"A gifted songstress whose capacity for emotional nuance enables her to reach joyous heights and melancholic lows. She’s hurt, vindictive, wounded, strong, hateful, loving, wanting and satisfied... she’s compelling enough to draw in the listener, to hold the listener’s attention."
- The Detroit Metro Times

"Despair meets defiance... her voice is weathered and a bit frayed around the edges, but it contains more character and depth of feeling than most any other singer this side of Billie and Aretha." 
- The Detroit Free Press

"LaVette has survived - you can hear it in that laugh - and despite all odds, thrived, blossoming into international renown in her 60s, when most singers are winding down their careers."
- The Detroit News

"LaVette interprets other people's songs, but her palette and taste are vast and unexpected... In a hardened rasp reminiscent of Tina Turner back in the days with Ike, LaVette grinds out the lyrics with a gut-wrenching intensity."
- The Boston Globe

“Enough with covers. Enough with ‘American Idol,’ ‘Glee’ and Rod Stewart tribute-to-the-past records. We need artful, inspired interpretations, not flat remakes. And R&B Comeback Queen Bettye LaVette delivers just what we need. With huge or intimate and always impassioned vocals, she kills.” 
- The Boston Herald

"LaVette is miles ahead of most working singers... Her ability to make the work of various singers and songwriters sound autobiographical." 
- The Washington Post

“LaVette seems determined to isolate the basic character of the material. She takes these songs down to street level, stripping them of everything inessential in order to find out what they have to say about life or love.”
- The Los Angeles Times

"What is there to say about Bettye LaVette that hasn't already been said? When she sings, she mines a vein of blues that is linked to the center of the earth. The voice is weathered now, showing signs of a life fully lived, which makes it all the more sweet." 
- The Chicago Tribune

“LaVette is the most emotive, emotional singer in the R&B world.” 
- The Minneapolis Star Tribune

"LaVette radiated strength and conviction on anguished, soul-searching ballads... These were songs with big themes about lost love and missed opportunities that anyone could relate to, and she delivered them with the authenticity of someone who has been around the block more than a few times. LaVette had the moves, timing and intonation of a stage veteran, prancing, prowling and dancing, nonstop." 
- The Seattle Times

"She shows a willingness to change with the times... With her reedy voice, swaggering attitude and no-nonsense songs... LaVette is all contemporary woman, hardly a relic." 
- The Aspen Times

“Whatever genre Bettye LaVette chooses her material from, it’s R&B when she sings it." 
- The Tampa Tribune

"One of the strongest acts this year included the incredible soul singer Bettye LaVette. She took the big stage after  dark, making her dramatic set even more compelling. Beneath the spotlights, LaVette took command, bringing to every tune all of the vocal riches she has amassed in her almost five-decade career. LaVette proved herself as one of the greatest dispensers of soul music in our time." 
- The Louisiana Weekly

"Some people call Bettye LaVette a song interpreter. But really, she’s a song remodeler, gutting a tune down to the studs, rebuilding it to fit her gritty voice and opening the front door so neighbors can come in to ooh and ahh."  
- The Dallas Morning News

"Pain seeps from the cracks in her contralto voice as if it's an open sore. LaVette delves into diverse musical corners few other soul singers have dared to investigate." 
- Living Blues

“Bettye LaVette’s voice has the kind of earthy urgency that can’t be faked or taught.” 
- Nashville Scene

"She draws upon her life the way a method actor uses sense memory-not to create what's real, but to create an illusion of it... her shards-of-glass vocals; the clipped, ravaged phrasing so singular that it can only be termed LaVettesque... Her voice is jagged and rusty, weary, but filled with life too, hard as new forged steel, and with no intention of going easy." 
- No Depression

"If soul singer Bettye Lavette has proven anything... it’s that you don’t need to write a song to get plenty out of it... her covers are more like rewrites. That’s the ultimate compliment for a vocalist and this is another compelling example of Lavette’s finely tuned interpretative talents taking songs to places you might not have imagined."  
- American Songwriter

“She’s not afraid to bear her soul and sing from the bottom of her heart, making it clear why Lavette has such staying power as a singer. Bettye LaVette’s voice, sanded raw and consumed by emotion is a powerful witness: strong, down and above all, real." 
- Paste

"LaVette is onstage in a plunging red jumpsuit that’s equal parts Elvis and Ann-margaret... she sways her hips like a torture dancer at one of the nearby strip clubs. The fact that she’s nearing 70 doesn’t have an impact on several men nearby, all staring slack-jawed at her trousersnake- charmer moves; the moan and the motion promise pleasure in the pain. The sensual in the forsaken is a recipe that LaVette understands." 
- Relix

"LaVette is in incredibly fine form, squeezing every amount of emotional resonance out of every track, her voice a well burnished, emotionally charged instrument that she plays like a master." 
- Blurt 

"A good portion of LaVette's career revival these last several years has hinged on her transformative skills as an interpreter, especially in the way she can take her ragged yet lush voice and wring out new emotions from songs you thought might not have any tears left." 
- Pitchfork

"When LaVette casts her net, she casts it wide, and more often than not, she manages to transform the song into something utterly new - recognizable, but deeper, darker, and often more powerful." 
- Pop Matters

"Bettye LaVette is no ordinary soul shouter. She’s a genuine interpreter, able to shift seamlessly from conversational to blazingly intense." 
- Blender

"Bettye LaVette may well be the current Queen of Soul, an interpreter in the classic sense." 
- Hits 

"Bettye LaVette... possesses the growl of Tina and the forbidding, earth-moving force of Aretha…she lays us flat with her powers of slow-burning devastation." 
- Elle 

“Sometimes it takes a long time for the spotlight to find you. Just ask R&B singer Bettye LaVette, who waited almost 40 years for her turn – but boy is she making up for lost time now.” 
- Pollstar

"Bettye LaVette has a voice that would make the king of the jungle turn back and run the other way. It growls, pleads, cajoles, demands and, although rarely, whimpers. It’s a voice that can go from a whisper to a scream in .06 seconds. It’s the voice of authority and when it opens, you damn well better listen." 
- The Aquarian Weekly

"Lavette has a voice capable of taking any song on a cathartic journey…are interpreted with visceral layers of deep soul even their authors could never have imagined." 
- Uncut 

"Imbuing each song with an honesty, tenderness and anguish drawn straight from the heart." 
- Mojo

"One of the best soul voices ever."
- Blues & Soul

"Her voice has matured to a crackling growl, rich in colour and fierce emotion." 
- The Guardian UK 

"LaVette's increased store of life experience gives hard-won tales of romantic trials and tribulations added depth and edge... passion on a grand scale. 
- The London Daily Mirror

 

Top of page Go to top of page

Worthy

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"Her use of vocal texture, of which she has lots of shades, is perfect and really involves you with the track. Worthy is well worth the wait." - Express (London)

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"A Woman Like Me"

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"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

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STORE: CDs and more

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Bettye LaVette is back with a new album and her long-awaited autobiography. You can buy signed-copies of both on here - and pick up a T-Shirt on the way.

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