From stardom at Motown at age sixteen, to obscurity and near destitution, to an amazing career revival in her sixties when she sang at President Obama’s pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, LaVette—one of R&B’s legendary singers—discusses her roller-coaster ride through the world of music.
Bettye LaVette 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. She sang at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors and at President Obama’s pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Her eclectic musical style combines elements of soul, blues, rock and roll, funk, gospel, and country music. She marks her 50th anniversary in the music world with the upcoming release of her album Thankful N’ Thoughtful, and her memoir, A Woman Like Me, co-written with David Ritz.
David Ritz has collaborated on autobiographies with, among others, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, BB King, Smokey Robinson, Etta James, Buddy Guy, Don Rickles, and Cornel West. He has written biographies of Marvin Gaye and Jimmy Scott and is the author of two novels. He co-composed the song “Sexual Healing” with Marvin Gaye. Ritz has been nominated for five Grammys and has won one. He is a two-time winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award and the only four-time winner of the Ralph Gleason/ Rolling Stone Book Award. His current book is A Woman Like Me, written with R&B singer Bettye LaVette.