Om Bettye LaVette
The often unrecognized, bottomless soul of Bettye LaVette's voice, and the lack of acknowledgment she receives as one of the genre's pioneers, ranks her among the most underrated artists ever. Brought up in Detroit, LaVette's talent wasn't cultivated from the city's deep gospel influence like many of her Motown peers, but rather from the blues. At 16, she recorded her first single, "My Man, He's a Lovin' Man" with Detroit man-about-town Johnnie Mae Matthews, who sold the rights to Atlantic Records and made the song a hit on the soul charts. Shortly afterwards, she recorded her biggest success, "Let Me Down Easy," which turned out to be a bit of a career prophecy. The song became her standard, but didn't break the Billboard's Top-100. Instead, the singer's music lived among the shadows of giants. She toured with iconic performers like Ben E. King, Otis Redding and James Brown, but failed to receive the accolades these artists did. After several disappointments with the industry, she left for a leading role in the Broadway show Bubbling Brown Sugar opposite Cab Calloway, and stayed in the Broadway circuit for several years before returning to the record business during the disco-era. That produced another small hit "Doin' the Best I Can." Going largely unnoticed through the '80s and '90s, the songstress toured Europe's soul circuit for the next decade, but her fortunes didn't change until 2000, when music connoisseur Gilles Petard discovered a shelved LaVette recording from 1972 and released it, reawakening an interest in the artist's canon. Approaching her sixties, with a voice bigger than ever and a massive will to succeed, the singer gained another flicker of the spotlight in 2005, when she released the Andy Kaulkin-produced I've Got My Own Hell To Raise.