Golden Oldie of the Week

20/01/2021

Classic tracks from classic artists that still pack the perfect punch! This week, soul legend Bettye LaVette! 

Whilst we are blessed with fresh new tunes at our fingertips on a daily basis, there's a multitude of bangers still waiting for the latest generation to rediscover them.


This week, we walk away from the roots of rock and roll we have looked at in previous weeks and turn to soul icon Bettye LaVette.


It's a travesty that through various issues with record labels, Bettye LaVette's best work went largely unnoticed until resurfacing the 2000s. Though being pregnant at 14, married at 15, and as she puts it 'snorting cocaine with pretty much everybody in 60s and 70s Detroit' surely played a part in her long, long rise to stardom. 


Raised in Detroit, Michigan, Betty Jo Haskins' (birth name) earliest connections with music came from R&B and country hits, unlike her contemporaries who were brought up on gospel.


Performing from a young age her talent was obvious, and Haskins was soon signed by local record producer Johnnie Mae Matthews. Matthews, known as the "Godmother of Detroit Soul" was the first African American female to own a record label and is regarded as huge influence on the success of many artists in the Detroit soul scene.


At aged sixteen, Haskins recorded her first single in 1962 'My Man - He's a Lovin' Man', with the track credited to her as Betty Lavett (a tribute to friend Sherma Lavette Anderson who introduced the pair). The song became a minor R&B hit and subsequently LaVette was picked up Atlantic Records who sent her on tour with the likes of Otis Redding, Ben E. King, and Clyde McPhatter.


In 1965, 'Let Me Down Easy', the first single credited to 'Betty LaVette' (it wouldn't be until 1977 that the spelling of Betty turned to Bettye), saw LaVette return to the R&B charts, peaking at number 20.


With various singles produced for various record labels over the next decade, LaVette continued to have mediocre success in R&B before recording popular disco hit 'Doin' The Best That I Can' in 1978.


Enjoying the triumph of the dance track, LaVette was cast in Broadway musical Bubbling Brown Sugar, which led to the singer briefly giving up her recording career. With this role raising LaVette's profile, she was signed to legendary hometown record label Motown.


Again, with minor successes in the 1980s, LaVette's luck finally began to turn after decades of hard work. Sharing old recordings with French producer Giles Petard, LaVette saw unheard material released under the title Souvenirs.


This led to a spark in interest in the soul singer across Europe, before her 2005 album 'I've Got My Own Hell to Raise' a collection of covers from other female artists, skyrocketed LaVette into mainstream stardom. The album was listed on numerous best albums of the year lists and saw renewed interest in the depth of LaVette's musical history.


With continued success in the noughties and 2010s, LaVette was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2020.


The song we've picked out for you this week is LaVette's 1970 recording 'We've Got to Slip Around'. Mixing elements of Motown, gospel, and soul, the story of a love affair is told through LaVette's now iconic, powerful vocals searching, and finding, every note.


LaVette is still recording at the age of 74. Her latest studio album Blackbirds was released in 2020 and is a collection of songs by female artists from the 1950s.


You can follow Bettye LaVette on Twitter and Instagram and check out her website for anymore news!


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