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Interview:
Festival of Arts marks homecoming for two headliners
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

There'll be lots of Rhythm and not too many Blues for Solomon Burke and Bettye LaVette -- veteran soul singers who will be delivering homecoming performances at this year's Detroit Festival of the Arts.

Solomon Burke, the (justifiably) self-proclaimed King of Rock & Soul as well as an ordained minister, was born in Philadelphia and resides in Los Angeles, but calls Detroit "my second home" thanks to a daughter used to live here and gospel recordings he's made with Detroit artists and choirs.

"There are all these wonderful things and people in Detroit that make it so comfortable for me," says Burke, who's best known for `60s R&B hits such as "Cry to Me," "Got to Get You Off of My Mind," "Tonight's the Night" and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love." "I have so many warm memories of the Motor City. I always enjoy when I get a chance to go to Detroit."

The 2001 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee also owes the city a debt for a pair of its musical progeny, who have made the start of the 21st century particularly prolific for Burke. Joe Henry, who attended Rochester Adams High School (and is married to Madonna's younger sister Melanie), produced Burke's Grammy-winning 2002 album "Don't Give Up On Me," while Detroit native Don Was (ne Fagenson) helmed last year's "Made Do With What You Got."

LaVette can certainly relate to the latter title. The Muskegon native -- who moved to Detroit when she was two years old and now lives in New Jersey -- labored in obscurity after her single, "He's a Good Man," hit the R&B Top 10 in 1962. But her profile has been raised in recent years by 2003's "A Woman Like Me," which won a prestigious WC Handy Award for Comeback Blues Album of the Year, and last year's critically acclaimed "I've Got My Own Hell to Raise," which was also produced by Joe Henry.

"I'm still trying to see what I can glean from this (album)," LaVette, 61, says. "For 44 years I have not made any money, so that's what I'm hoping will happen next. I'm not thinking about a next album; I'm just hoping to work at some the places that I've always wanted to work, that are really nice and everything.

"It's just nice to go places now where people seem to know my name and appreciate who I am."

The Detroit Festival of the Arts runs Friday through Sunday in Detroit's Cultural Center. For information, call (313) 577-5088 or visit

Web Site: www.detroitfestival.com.

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