What can you expect from a musician after 50 years in the music industry and home ties to Detroit? The answer is: amazing things. Bettye LaVette is a Michigan native, a music industry veteran, and- recently added to her repertoire- a writer. Her first book, A Woman Like Me, was released late last month and tells the story of Bettye, her career and her young life in Detroit.
Born in Michigan in in 1946, LaVette’s family relocated to the Motor City when she was only six years old. In 1962, her musical talent was discovered by singer, Timmy Shaw, who introduced her to record producer, Johnnie Mae Matthews. Soon after, LaVette record her first studio single, “My Man–He’s a Loving Man.”
She’s been featured in The New Yorker, The Late Late Show, and The Tonight Show. Her latest album, Thankful N’ Thoughtful, features two tracks that pay homage to the soul singer’s stomping grounds of Detroit. The tracks are each their own unique interpretation of The Pogues’ song, “Dirty Old Town”. The first version features an upbeat tempo as the backdrop to LaVette’s signature growling vocals. The second is the ‘slow version’ in which LaVette passionately conveys her emotion and passion for the city. Why two tracks? Lavette explains in an interview with Phoenix New Times, “. . . the record company liked one, and I liked the other. Neither of us was willing to give. Have you seen the commercial with the peanut butter and the chocolate? [I said,] ‘Let’s do both.'” (hear the song here)
LaVette feels positive about the future of Detroit. “Less than 30 years ago, I was doing a play in Atlanta, and you could have shot off a cannon and not hit anybody in the whole downtown. You know? So that gives me hope”
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After listening to her song, do you think it is represents Detroit? Tell us what you think!