Bettye LaVette (born Betty Haskins) is an American soul singer-songwriter who made her first record at sixteen, but achieved only intermittent fame until 2005, with her album I've Got My Own Hell to Raise. Her eclectic musical style combines elements of soul, blues, rock and roll, funk, gospel, and country music.
She was signed by Johnnie Mae Matthews, a local record producer, in 1962 at age 16. She then recorded a single, "My Man—He's a Lovin' Man" with Matthews, which became a Top Ten R&B hit after Atlantic Records bought distribution rights. This led to a tour with rhythm and blues musicians Clyde McPhatter, Ben E. King, Barbara Lynn, and then-newcomer Otis Redding. Though she had many recordings with many agencies in the years after this original track, she did not see great success until 2005.
After signing to The Rosebud Agency for live bookings, Rosebud president Mike Kappus brought her to the attention of Anti- Records president, Andy Kaulkin. Upon seeing LaVette perform, Kaulkin signed her to a three–record deal. For the first project, he paired her with Joe Henry, and suggested an album of songs written entirely by women. The resulting CD, I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, was on many critics’ “Best of 2005” lists. The title is taken from the lyrics of Fiona Apple's 1996 hit "Sleep to Dream", which is covered on the album.
In 2006, capitalizing on the success of I've Got My Own Hell To Raise and the reviews of her live shows, a previous album titled Child of the Seventies was reissued by Rhino Handmade with some previously unreleased tracks. The album was met with critical acclaim. Varèse Sarabande then issued Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart, a CD containing all of the songs that she cut for Silver Fox and SSS International in 1969 and 1970. The CD included three unreleased tracks as well as two duets with Hank Ballard. In 2006, she received a “Pioneer Award” from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.
Her 2007 album, The Scene of the Crime, was mostly recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with alt-rockers Drive-By Truckers. The Scene of the Crime was nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best Contemporary Blues Album" and landed on numerous "Best of 2007" lists. In 2008, she received a Blues Music Award for “Best Contemporary Female Blues Singer”. Also in 2008, Reel Music re-issued on CD her Motown LP, Tell Me A Lie. The album contained the original cover design that was not used when the LP was released.
LaVette contributed a cover of "Most of the Time" for the album Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. On December 31, 2012, LaVette appeared in the UK on BBC Two's Jools Holland Annual Hootenanny. In 2013 and 2014, LaVette was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the 'Contemporary Blues Female Artist' category.
LaVette is married to Kevin Kiley, a recorded music and antiques dealer who is also a singer and musician. They live in West Orange, New Jersey.
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