Last year it was fair to ask the question, “who is Bettye LaVette?” This year, not so much. After last year’s sold-out show at the Iron Horse and a triumphant year-long comeback Bettye’s return to Northampton is a fait accompli and a treat. The simple answer is Ms. LaVette is one of the greatest soul singers in American music history, possessed of an incredibly expressive voice that one moment will exude a formidable level of strength and intensity and the next will appear vulnerable, reflective, reeking of heartbreak. Unfortunately, it says much about the vagaries of the popular music industry that, although LaVette has been recording for over four decades, up until recent years she has remained criminally unknown. Last year’s comeback album, Scene of the Crime was recorded with the Drive-By Truckers.
Bettye stunned the audience with a standout performance of The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" at The Kenedy Center Honors recently. According to Who guitarist Pete Townshend, "My favorite moment was when Bettye LaVette sang a very fine version of 'Love Reign O'er Me' at the Gala and Barbra Streisand turned to ask me if I really wrote it." Bettye herself was quite excited to be a part of the Honors: “The Kennedy Center Honors was the most exciting thing I have ever done in my life” says Bettye. “And this year has been the greatest year of my life. Who would have ever imagined both Barack and I going to the White House?”