Encyclopedia Of Detroit

LaVette, Bettye

Acclaimed soul singer Bettye LaVette was born Betty Jo Haskins on January 29, 1946 in Muskegon, Michigan. When she was young, her family moved to Detroit, where she grew up listening to soul, country, blues, and R&B music. Eager to join the musical landscape she so admired, she adopted the stage name Bettye LaVette at the age of 16, and recorded her first single, the R&B track “My Man – He's a Loving Man,” in 1962. It became a hit, but her output of singles in the succeeding years saw varying levels of success.  

LaVette recorded singles on several record labels throughout her early years, including Atlantic, Atco, Calla, Epic, and Karen, among others. Her first full length album was 1982’s Tell Me a Lie with Motown Records. Another earlier album, Child of the Seventies, was fully recorded, but the project was never released by Atco. LaVette’s career had a quiet period through the 1990s, before rising back into the spotlight thanks in part to admiration from European fans. This resulted in a resurgence, being kicked off with the 2003 album A Woman Like Me

LaVette is praised for her song covers - performing them in her own way and transforming the source material into something new. She has put her spin on songs by Kenny Rogers, Aretha Franklin, The Who, Dolly Parton, Sam Cooke, Etta James, the Rolling Stones, and countless others.  

LaVette also performed on stage alongside Cab Calloway in the Broadway production Bubbling Brown Sugar. She performed the theme song for the short-lived Detroit-based AMC television drama series Low Winter Sun. LaVette has been nominated for six Grammy awards, and has earned numerous other accolades including induction into the Blues Hall of Fame. She performed at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2008, as well as President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.