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Interview:
New album, book keeping Bettye LaVette busy
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

At 66 years old, Bettye LaVette doesn't know about taking it easy.

And she doesn't want to.

This year the Muskegon-born singer, who now resides in New Jersey, released "Thankful N' Thoughtful," her fifth new album in less than a decade, and published a frank and revealing autobiography, "A Woman Like Me," that, among other topics, documents the time she spent living and working in Detroit early in her career.

"I took it easy for like 40 years," says LaVette, who hit early with the singles "My Man -- He's a Lovin' Man" and "Let Me Down Easy" but labored in relative obscurity until catching mainstream interest again with the 2005 album "I've Got My Own Hell to Raise." "I had a lot of time to rest. I was getting terribly frightened for awhile, so I'm really relieved.

"After all, this is a full-fledged career they've dumped into somebody's grandmother's lap."

In "A Woman Like Me," LaVette -- who has two grandchildren, aged 21 and 27 -- shows that it's been a pretty full and eventful life even without commercial success. The book pulls no punches about famous figures such as Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., and the late Atlantic Records chief Ahmet Ertegun, or about LaVette's own dalliances with drugs, alcohol, bisexuality and depression.

"A lot of these are stories that would come out in the course of conversations I've had over the years, or maybe I'd drop one into an interview, and people would invariably say, 'You should write a book,' " LaVette says. "I didn't want to gossip; everything I write about are things that happened to me -- what I thought that day, what I said.

"I don't owe any of those people anything; they never did anything for me, so I don't owe them any allegiance. And I haven't seen them or talked to them in 40 years. I know who they were then, and I know I'm a much better person now, so I assume they've grown up and they're better people, too. But (the book) tells you about who they were back then."

Bettye LaVette performs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $27.50. Call 734-761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.

Web Site: www.theark.org

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