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A Woman Like Me Hardcover – September 27, 2012
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"Anyone who has ever heard Bettye LaVette's voice will recognize how absurd it is that she may have ever been unsung. This is her own story, in her own words. What else could you need to know?” —Elvis Costello
“From the jump, A Woman Like Me is riveting. Bettye LaVette's story grips you and, like her voice, doesn't let go.” —Paul Shaffer
“A Woman Like Me is a candid, offbeat, and gloriously unapologetic memoir by one of the greatest soul singers of all time…. This is narrative writing at its best. LaVette’s charismatic style of performance is consistent with her bold and engaging personality on the page; there’s never a dull moment here.” –Kristin Rawls, The Christian Science Monitor
“‘Love, Reign o’er Me’ is one of the best songs I’ve written. I never thought anyone could challenge the way Roger Daltrey took the vocals to such a high level of anguish, longing, and epiphany, but Bettye did it. She is a voice from the wilderness. How did we miss her for so long? A Woman Like Me goes some of the way to explain. Now she is here, an extraordinary discovery in a blues voice. We must hang on to her tightly.” —Pete Townshend
“Bettye makes no apologies.” —Jon Bon Jovi
“LaVette has had quite the colorful life, and she spares no detail or hair-raising experience in A Woman Like Me.” —Kia Makarechi, The Huffington Post
“Absolutely engrossing… a wild ride… Despite the numerous setbacks, the unfilled promises from producers—something she terms 'buzzard luck'—LaVette is a survivor and no obstacles is too big for her to surmount. Her honesty is astonishing and if half of what she relates is true then her journey is no less painful than Billie Holiday’s or Bessie Smith’s…. What is most intriguing about her book is the way she and Ritz mix humor and wit, a kind of comic relief to the moments of sorrow and setback…. Longtime residents of Harlem, Chicago, LA, and Detroit will relish those scenes so memorably evoked by LaVette as she recalls the clubs, incidents, and the gaggle of lovers and mentors…. A woman like Bettye LaVette is like no other.” —Herb Boyd, The Network Journal
“A dizzying, careening, nonstop roller coaster ride of an autobiography….An unflinching and uncompromising look at a life lived across the tracks from fame, where the brass ring was always within view but never within her grasp.” –Ben Edmonds, Detroit Free Press
“LaVette’s autobiography reads like an R&B song only she could perform—soulful and honest….Her quest serves as one of the most authentic inside looks at the American music industry, and LaVette pulls no punches…LaVette’s tale is a treat.” –Publishers Weekly
“A tale of inspiration, frustration and promises deferred...studded with anecdotes about a life making music alongside some of the biggest names in Detroit.” –Tris McCall, The New Jersey Star-Ledger
“Powerful.” –The Village Voice
“Hilarious and harrowing … the details of her tale prove so crazed, quotable and laugh-out-loud funny, I found myself dog-earing many more pages in her book than I left pristine. At 66, LaVette has lost none of the muscularity of her instrument. Neither has she lost her trim figure. Her bad-ass spirit, evident on every page, remains even more firmly intact. The most powerful aspect of her story comes in the way she chooses to tell it: with a triumphant cackle.” –Jim Farber, New York Daily News
“The life story of this soul singer—a real survivor, now 66—is destined for the big screen…LaVette’s candid story is also a window into the early years of Motown and the Detroit music scene." –Billy Heller, New York Post
“[LaVette’s] book is red hot.” –Steve Holsey, Michigan Chronicle
“Bettye LaVette’s autobiography, A Woman Like Me, proves she’s as amazing a storyteller as she is a singer.” –Benjamin Boles, Now
“LaVette tells it like it is…. LaVette sings as straightforwardly as she writes, probably because she is from no-nonsense Detroit. Much of the start of her memoir, cowritten with David Ritz, details the Detroit blues scene. There are beautiful cameo portraits of Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke and Little Esther Phillips along the way.” –Charles R. Cross, The Seattle Times
“LaVette is a rhythm and blues survivor of the highest order, someone whose run of ‘buzzard luck’ as she calls it would have stomped down almost anyone else alive. To read her unrelenting story with every single nitty gritty detail included is to understand what long odds the music business has always been, and also see the high and low points in high-def detail like very few biographies have captured. LaVette is long past shame over some of her escapades, and lucky for us she and co-writer David Ritz capture the arduous journey dead-on, never pulling out the make-up and lip gloss to try and sugarcoat the truth.” –Bill Bentley, The Motion Report
“Besides being remarkably frank, A Woman Like Me is a very funny book, rife with one laugh after another.” –Lee Hildebrand, San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Bettye LaVette (born Betty Jo Haskins, January 29, 1946) is an American rhythm-and-blues singer who made her first record at sixteen but achieved only intermittent fame until 2003 and her album A Woman Like Me. Her eclectic musical style combines elements of soul, blues, rock and roll, funk, gospel, and country music. Her live performances consistently receive rave reviews, and her albums The Scene of the Crime and Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook have been nominated for Grammy Awards. She has been a guest on major national radio and television programs. LaVette lives in New Jersey with her husband, Kevin Kiley, and their three cats, Otis, Smokey, and Jeremy.
David Ritz has been described by The New York Times as “the first-call celebrity collaborator.” He has worked with everyone from Ray Charles to Don Rickles.
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That is just the opening sentence.
A Woman Like Me, by Bettye LaVette, is a raw, honest, often gritty autobiography about the life and career of one of America's most diverse singers. In her music, LaVette easily moves from R&B to rock to gospel. Even to country. Her albums, Scene of the Crime and The British Rock Songbook were both nominated for Grammys. It took her years to finally find sustainable success, and this book tells the entire story of how she found it.
A Woman Like Me is a clearly written, informal narrative about every phase of LaVette's life. From growing up in 1960's Detroit, (in a house that illegally sold alcohol), to her first hit single at 20 years old, to every step she took in the music business, to finally finding success and love today, LaVette pulls no punches as she explains what she's been through. It wasn't an easy life. Awful things happened here, but the story is an honest one.
"Independence was my goal," She writes. Which is ironic, because in the beginning she was anything but. Chasing men, sleeping with them, married or not, was life seemed to be for her. It was what she did to get money, it was what she did to get her voice heard. It didn't bother her that men slapped women around, it didn't bother her that she put up with it. It didn't bother her to go through so many boyfriends and lovers to chase her dream. She simply accepted it.
Yet, a recurring question throughout the first half of the journey was, "Why is my career going nowhere?" And every time I read something like that in the book, I just wanted to shake her by the shoulders and say, Bettye, what are you doing? You are going to wind up dead, not a singer!
Thankfully that isn't how things worked out. Eventually life, and the book, transitions from her "wild life to the respectable life." In her 60s now, she's finally getting the respect she craved and deserved. She's even found true love, finally, with her husband, Kevin Kiley. This book had me so on edge that I actually noticed myself exhaling in relief as she wrote about him.
There are so many quotes in the book that will stick with me, but me being the classic film fan that I am was surprised and happy to read this one near the end:
"My passion for old movies is stronger than ever. All I want to do is watch Bette Davis in Now, Voyager or Myrna Loy and William Powell in The Thin Man."
It made me smile. Projecting my own feelings about classic films, that statement made me feel like maybe she's finally found contentment. And after the life she's lived? That's a big relief.
This is not your typical musical bio but a damn good book and one you'll be talking about long after you've turned the last page. The story might end there but Bettye sure doesn't. Check out any one of the many CD's she has out there! You've heard of Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin but Bettye's the best damn soul and blues singing lady that has ever drawn a breath and tragically, there are still a good many fans who haven't even heard her yet!
"Change is gonna come!"