Bettye LaVette's first single in 1963 was a major hit, but for the next 40 years, the R&B singer bounced between label deals and near-destitution as her peers such as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross became superstars. LaVette grew up in Detroit, the birthplace of Motown, but the label's founder Berry Gordy Jr. never brought her onto his roster.
But LaVette is having the last laugh. At age 74, she's now enjoyed five Grammy nominations and numerous lifetime achievement awards. LaVette's new studio album Blackbirds is the ninth record she's released since 2003, when she kicked off a late-career resurgence.
She brought The Who's Pete Townshend to tears when she performed Love Rain Over Me at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors. It led to her performing at President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony.
Her talent for finding new emotion in other people's songs is such that Justin Hayworth from the Moody Blues once told her that he'd written Nights in White Satin, but he never understood it until she sang it. Her voice, both on stage and in person, is what makes LaVette so extraordinary.
After all these years, she's in a lane of her own. Bettye LaVette is the last of the great women of R&B's golden era.
LaVette joined us for a conversation about her long career as the underdog of American blues.
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Data Lords is a new double-album by Grammy Award-winning composer and bandleader Maria Schneider. Inspired by conflicting relationships between the digital and natural worlds, the recording features Schneider's acclaimed orchestra of 18 world-class musicians.
Schneider says; "No one can deny the great impact that the data-hungry digital world has had on our lives. As big data companies clamor for our attention, I know that I'm not alone in struggling to find space – to keep connected with my inner world, the natural world, and just the simpler things in life," says Schneider. "Just as I feel myself ping ponging between a digital world and the real world, the same dichotomy is showing up in my music. In order to truly represent my creative output from the last few years, it felt natural to make a two- album release reflecting these two polar extremes."
In the latest, 89.9WUCF: Orlando FL Magazine - Bob Kelley reviews the latest from keyboardist and arranger Antonio Adolfo - we celebrate the birth of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins - and Maria Schneider lets us in on her take of two polarized worlds with "Data Lords". LISTEN TO THE SEGMENT
Ludwig Göransson is a famous Swedish composer, record producer, and conductor. He worked in many great films but never won an Emmy. Other than that he won Grammy's award for best soundtrack for visual media in Black Panther.
On September 19th Saturday, Ludwig was announced as the best music composer for a series, where he scored his first Emmy.
Göransson tweeted thank you to the academy for this honor and all the fame Mandalorian received this Emmy season. He even thanked Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau for giving him such a great opportunity to cross genres and boundaries with the score.
Ludwig is no longer a secret that how talented and amazing person he is. He will be going to touch high places if goes with this speed and ability, Mondo's Mo Shafeek said in an interview. But he didn't tell about the chameleon-like ability to play with multiple genres.
"His music for films like Creed and Black Panther showcase not only his collaborative nature but also his relationship to pop and hip hop, as well as blending untraditional instrumentation with traditional orchestras."
Shafeek added: "His score for The Mandalorian is similarly masterful in its ability to be wildly experimental while never feeling out of place – like a synth spaghetti western score that feels inspired in equal parts to Ennio Morricone, John Williams, and Hans Zimmer, while also never feeling like a pastiche. We are honoured to be the home for this complete score."
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"Beauty will save the world." Those are the words of cellist Camille Thomas, whose new album, Voice of Hope, speaks to this very idea. This album concept, at first glance, might have been at risk of feeling overly saccharine. It turns out, it'll take no more than nine seconds before the opening Kaddish by Ravel pulls you in and you know this is no lightweight endeavor from Thomas. This is not a sweet, innocent beauty, but one of visceral yearning, colored with mesmerizing, sometimes hauntingly beautiful soundscapes.
Thomas delivers this, her second release on the Deutsche Grammophon label, alongside musical colleagues very much on her home turf - the Brussels Philharmonic and their French music director Stéphane Denève.
Hear Camille Thomas and Stéphane Denève discuss the recording of Never Give Up on 90.1WRTI: Philadelphia
Canada's most successful songwriters, composers and music publishers are will be honoured in the 31st annual SOCAN Awards, held for the first time online, with Shawn Mendes solidifying his place in songwriting royalty earning two of the most prestigious prizes, becoming the most-awarded SOCAN member in a single year.
Follow @socanmusic on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (#2020SOCANawards) to join in the celebration of more than 50 award winners announced today through September 25th via special virtual presentation. Celebrations include Drake, LIGHTS, bülow, Andrew Lockington, Daniel Caesar, Laila Biali and more.
Biali has some new music for fall/winter including the release of Anthem by Leonard Cohen.
Laila Biali released her cover of 'Anthem' by Leonard Cohen last Friday, Sept 18, for Leonard's birthday celebration TODAY Sept 21.
The 2019 JUNO-Award winner covers her fellow Canadian and music icon with his relevant song that delivers a salient message for the times we find ourselves in: "Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that's where the light gets in." Leonard would have turned 86 today.
This single releases on the heels of Laila's highly succsessful 2020 album release, Out of Dust, which came out on March 27 and features an expansive ensemble of instrumentalists and singers including GRAMMY Award winners and nominees Lisa Fischer, John Ellis, Larnell Lewis, and others.
CBC Radio 1 is premiering the track today along with the Quarantunes video. Watch the attached
In 1968, a 16-year-old jazz fan at Palo Alto High School in California decides to hold a concert in the school's auditorium to raise funds for its International Club-and convinces Thelonious Monk's manager that his client should be the headliner. (Not surprisingly, the student, Danny Scher, would soon become a major force in the live-music production world.) As concert day approaches, one of the school's janitors, an audio enthusiast, offers to tune the piano in exchange for recording the show, a deal that's quickly agreed to. On the afternoon of October 27, the Thelonious Monk Quartet gives its only known high-school performance. Afterward, the janitor (his name apparently lost to history, though researchers are no doubt still working on that) hands the young promoter a tape. It goes in a box, where it sits for the next 50 years. When its owner rediscovers it, he contacts Monk's son T.S., who-first tickled by the story, then impressed by the recording's quality-sanctions its release.
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In the fall of 1968, a sixteen-year old high school student named Danny Scher had a dream to invite legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and his all-star quartet to perform a concert at his local high school in Palo Alto, CA.
Violinist Daniel Hope spent his period of social distancing by performing chamber concerts online from his living room in Berlin with specially invited guests including Christoph Israel, Till Brönner, Matthias Goerne and more.
Bettye LaVette didn't know 'The Beatles - Blackbird,' then it helped her fly / The New York Times
Posted: August 24, 2020 12:00 AM
| By: Admin
Ten years ago, the Fab Four's song about civil rights gave the soul singer a creative spark. Now she's releasing an album of tracks originally popularized by Black women.
All the songs on Bettye LaVette's new album, save for the Beatles track that inspired it, were originally popularized by Black female singers, including Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington.
In the summer of 2010, the soul singer Bettye LaVette stepped onstage at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles with a 32-piece string section behind her and performed a four-decade-old song she'd only just learned: the Beatles' "Blackbird."
At the time, LaVette was about seven years into a long-overdue career resurgence. As a teenager in the 1960s, she had scored a few memorable R&B hits, including the slinky, aching "Let Me Down Easy," but she failed to make the kind of impact that many of the artists she came up alongside in Detroit - Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, Aretha Franklin - enjoyed. To many record collectors, LaVette was a great forgotten singer whose earthy voice could transform any song into something more than even its author imagined. To most everyone else, she was just forgotten.
For decades, she'd had albums shelved, projects scuttled and even one manager shot. LaVette calls this seeming yen for misfortune "buzzard luck," but beginning around 2003, her fortunes began to change with a string of critically acclaimed albums.
Preparing for the Beatles tribute, her husband, Kevin Kiley, suggested she perform "Blackbird." "I'd never heard the song before in my life," LaVette said in a phone call from her home in West Orange, N.J., where she has been riding out the coronavirus pandemic. "Kevin played it for me and I said, ‘I wonder if people know he's talking about a Black woman?'"
Performing to a packed crowd 10 years ago, LaVette felt a deep connection to the signature lyric. "I just said, ‘All my life I've waited for this moment to arrive.' That is exactly how I felt."
LaVette rejiggered the song into the first-person, slowed the tempo to a crawl and added a bed of strings. Her wholesale reinvention of the classic tune became the foundation for an album that would take another decade to blossom. "Blackbirds," due Friday, is a collection of songs celebrating the formative work of - as LaVette calls them - "black birds." All the songs, save for the Beatles song that inspired it, were originally popularized by Black female singers, including Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington.
"These women are the first Black women singers I heard," she said. "Knowing what all these women went through, I can find myself in each of the songs because I'm a black bird too."
Steve Jordan, who produced and played drums on the album, heard LaVette's performance of "Blackbird" from the Hollywood Bowl and got goose bumps. "A lot of people don't realize Paul McCartney wrote this song about the civil rights movement and now you have an African-American woman who lived through the civil rights movement, so you're getting a taste of what the song was really about," he said.
LaVette's albums over the past 15 years have often been thematic. There are LPs of songs by female writers, British Invasion hits, Bob Dylan covers, and a disc recorded at the Southern soul incubator FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., with the Drive-by Truckers. She admits that she doesn't even listen to much music these days, and relies heavily on her husband, who's both a musician and a record collector, to catalog songs she might one day like to sing.
"I'll call her in and say, ‘Listen to this song,'" said Kiley. "If the bit she hears makes sense, we'll put it in a folder. I've got folders of George Jones songs, Beatles songs, country songs, just tons of them."
For LaVette, liking a song isn't the most important metric. "I have to find me in it somewhere," she said. "I'm such an arrogant singer. When I hear your song, if I like it, I don't even hear you anymore. I hear how I'm going to sing it."
Once LaVette chooses a song, she's all in. "She doesn't take on anything she can't fully own," said Joe Henry, who has produced two of LaVette's albums. "And thus, there's a really intense intimacy that her albums offer."
At her best, she manages to recast a song in a way that often changes its meaning or at least shades it differently. When Nina Simone sang "I Hold No Grudge," her target was an ex-lover, but when LaVette opens "Blackbirds" with the song, the source of her deep well of hurt is different.
"At this point, if a man hurt me, I'd smother him in his sleep," she said, laughing. "I'm singing about the pain I've suffered in this business. The ‘you' is the music industry."
LaVette is known for her cover songs, but she's picky about which she'll sing. "When I hear your song, if I like it, I don't even hear you anymore," she said. "I hear how I'm going to sing it."
LaVette is known for her cover songs, but she's picky about which she'll sing. "When I hear your song, if I like it, I don't even hear you anymore," she said. "I hear how I'm going to sing it."Credit...Gioncarlo Valentine for The New York Times
LaVette, who remains slender and feisty at 74, has a well-earned reputation as someone who, as Henry put it, "doesn't suffer fools." In conversation, she's chatty and punctuates many of her thoughts with raspy laugh. It's easy to read her 2012 memoir, "A Woman Like Me," a freewheeling, dishy marvel that gleefully calls out those who've wronged her, and wonder if her bad breaks were less "buzzard luck" than the industry's predictable response to a Black woman speaking her mind. But back then, LaVette said, she was less bold.
"I've gotten more outspoken as the years have gone by. A lot of the things that were happening to me in terms of racism, I didn't speak out on them because I didn't realize they were happening," she said. "I was doing better than any other Blacks I went to school with. So when I started to want more, I realized what I didn't have and what I didn't get a chance to do. There's a gene in us that keeps us from feeling entitled and that's the systemic racism. We're on autopilot now. We don't even have to be whipped. We know what to do."
Despite the many executives, producers and others who went out of their way to help LaVette during her leanest years, the prejudice she often faced was more insidious. "Systemic racism is when I have a record in 1969 and only Black stations can play it, and Bobbie Gentry did the same recording six months later and had a No. 1 record because it was heard all over the world."
In the time since "Blackbirds" was recorded last year, the project has taken on a poignancy LaVette never envisioned. The killing of George Floyd in police custody, the widespread protests that followed it and the heavy-handed federal response have reminded LaVette of the civil rights protests she lived through in the 1960s. "I thought we were further along than we apparently are," she said. "We all thought that until this administration got in."
Against the backdrop of the rancorous summer of 2020, LaVette's soaring "Blackbird" comes across as a pained but hopeful lament. Her stark take on Billie Holiday's iconic "Strange Fruit" - written in 1937 about the lynchings of African-Americans - feels haunting and anguished. "It sounds like they wrote it last week about this situation," LaVette said.
The tumult of the past few months frightens LaVette. Back in the '60s, she was an unapologetic militant who occasionally cooked grits for a breakfast program run by the Black Panthers. "Malcolm was speaking so much more to me than Martin was," she said. "I wasn't for marching and singing and praying and crying. Now, I'm old. I want to march and sing and pray and cry."
Watching millions of people rise up in protest has at least provided her with a measure of optimism. "This looks and feels different," she said. "My neighbor sent me a note saying he was sorry. It made me cry. I was raised with a mother who was born on a plantation in Louisiana, and I felt the whole '60s thing but I've never felt this before."
At the moment, LaVette is anticipating the day she can leave her home without fear, and get back to performing. Although she once longed for the superstardom many of her peers achieved, her career aspirations now are more pointed.
"I'd love to have a very big record, or for ‘Strange Fruit' to somehow become some kind of social statement," as long as the success was "something where there wouldn't have to be a lot of noise and moving about," she said with a sharp laugh. "I just want to look gorgeous but stand a little stiller."
Blues Hall of Famer Bettye LaVette has decided to release her stirring rendition of "Strange Fruit" ahead of schedule as it says as much about the history of American racism and the state of the country today. "Strange Fruit" was originally recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939 and written by Jewish teacher Abel Meeropol who wrote the song based on a photo of two black men who were lynched as a crowd of white people looked in the camera pointing and smiling. LaVette's version will be featured on her album, "Blackbirds" (Verve) set for release August 28.