Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2015-09-30
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


Bettye LaVette
BENT NIGHTS Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Vern Hester

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

When I first heard soul/blues artist Bettye LaVette's story—and then her music—I was outraged.

LaVette recorded a legendary debut album (Child of the Seventies) in 1972, only to see it shelved by some candy-ass executive at Atco Records. This was music that only saw the light of day because almost two decades later a French record label hunted down the masters, acquired the rights, released it as Souvenirs (Art and Soul Records) and set off LaVette's long-delayed emergence.

Now after four albums on Anti-Records, three Grammy nominations and performances before two sitting presidents—including one inauguration—she's back with her autobiography (A Woman Like Me, co-written with David Ritz, Blue Rider Press) and a new album, Thankful 'N Thoughtful (Anti-Records).

As an interpretive vocalist who does not write, Thankful could be construed as yet another covers album from her. But as typified by I've Got My Own Hell to Raise (2005, Anti-Records), which was a selection of songs by female composers, or Interpretations; The British Rock Songbook (2010, Anti-Records) which remodeled well-known brit singles from the '60s and '70s, LaVette approaches the music and turns it into far more than what even the composers had in mind. Don't believe me: Have a look at Pete Townshend's reaction to her version of The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" on YouTube.

In the case of Thankful, LaVette covers obscure songs by well-known artists (with the exception of one fairly recent hit) and manages to not only do the music industry a favor but also to justify my rage. She's still one of a kind and her mastery of soul/blues is literally beyond comprehension. The only way to describe her through her new album and her recent two-night stand at City Winery is to think of her as a sorceress, but even that falls short.

The most famous track here is "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, a song that begs for a bare-knuckled approach. LaVette's take is to shear it of its groove, strip it naked and punctuate the emotion behind the lyrics. Where Cee Lo Green crooned, LaVette jabs—not with anger or confrontation but with common sense, exasperation, and reason. Through this song, LaVette makes it a declaration of this era's madness for anything you want it to mean—innocent, talented, intelligent children routinely gunned down in the streets; decent, loving individuals denied the right to marry or serve their country; religious institutions that deny and camouflage abuses as a matter of policy; and perverted politics that corrupt there purpose. Green hints at the rot, but LaVette goes for the throat.

LaVette's reading of Neil Young's "Everyone Knows This is Nowhere" goes even further. Where Young seemed to sing about being trapped in a nowhere town or romance, LaVette rips through it like she's trapped in a nowhere life. Either interpretation exposes the situation as a no-win but LaVette's reading is either of defiance (fight) or defeat (suicide); however, the way she sings makes it hard to tell which.

If Thankful seems like a downer, and a complex one at that (after all, these are the blues), her show at City Winery was a qualified gas. Strutting out in a black pants ensemble and sensible low heels, she was spry, sassy and playfully sexy. Better still, City Winery seemed custom-made for her—a large elegant room of exposed brick and low lighting, it has an intimacy that reeks of informal class. Comfortably spacious while intimate (yes, the wind flowed freely, the wait staff was shockingly youthful and knowledgeable, the food was plentiful and exotic, and the feel of the room was unhurried and friendly) the set-up allowed LaVette's sorcery to permeate the room. (Yes, even the wait staff had to routinely stop and applaud her.)

Before tearing into Bob Dylan's "Everything Is Broken," she cracked that Dylan "writes too many damn words" but she went right ahead and turned it into something searing, engaging and emotionally complicated, anyway. When she took on Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," she made the quaint concept of searching for true love a quest for sincere and genuine friendship and companionship. Through LaVette's reading, Young's whiny lament became a quest for connection, warmth, understanding and camaraderie —which brings me back to my aforementioned rage. This is music that I needed to hear as a young man decades ago, and to be denied hearing LaVette for all this time is a crime in itself. To the record executive who canned her 40 years ago I say, "Rot in hell." To LaVette, I say, "Go, girl."

Heads up: Aretha Franklin will be playing The Venue at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., on Saturday, Dec. 29.

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Dancing About Architecture 2015-09-30
Upcoming: Health symposium; Open Books; Lynch; Martin, Short; CrossTown; PrEP talk 2015-09-30
BENT NIGHTS Willie Nelson 2015-09-29
NUNN ON ONE: MUSIC Fans are jazzed about Lili K 2015-09-29
Entertainment news: Gaga; Ian McKellen; Ruby Rose; Matt Damon 2015-09-29
Chicago Humanities Fest presents Four Women: Josephine, Eartha, Nina and Tina 2015-09-24
Upcoming: AIDS Run & Walk; Branden James; a-ha; Halloween 2015-09-23
Entertainment: 'EastSiders'; Gio Benitez; 'About Ray'; Cher 2015-09-23
David Bowie box set out Sept. 25 2015-09-23
1985 MUSIC 2015-09-23
Harris Theater: World premiere with Renee Fleming, Patricia Barber 2015-09-22
BENT NIGHTS Riot Fest 2015 2015-09-20
Dancing About Architecture 2015-09-16
Upcoming: Museum Day; leather event; Armatrading; Cho 2015-09-16
NUNN ON ONE: MUSIC The sun is shining on DJ Morgan Page 2015-09-15
MUSIC Branden James talks new EP, coming out on TV 2015-09-15
Nightlife photos: Northcoast Music Fest, Phoenix, The Glenwood 2015-09-09
Upcoming events in music, discussion, celebrity auction 2015-09-09
MUSIC Legendary jazz artist plays and shares his life 2015-09-09
NUNN ON ONE Rita Moreno talks new CD and even serenades 2015-09-09
Shemekia Copeland CD out Sept. 11 2015-09-09
'Black and Brown' celebrates racial, sexual minorities 2015-09-07
Chicago Opera Theater gets largest single gift 2015-09-02
Chicago trans residents Davis and Brady part of MTV VMAs 2015-09-02
Dancing About Architecture 2015-09-02
Petterino's celebrates 8th anniversary of Monday Night Live Sept. 14 2015-09-01
Upcoming events in politics, parties, health, art, music 2015-09-01
NUNN ON ONE: MUSIC Leona Lewis on U.S. market, new CD and drag queens 2015-09-01
MUSIC Singer Greg Holden talks 'American Idol,' 'Boys in the Street' 2015-09-01
Entertainment: Ricky Martin; Marc Jacobs; Maria Bello; Timberlake 2015-09-01
Upcoming: Sondheim honored; Play marks 10th Katrina anniversary 2015-08-26
Entertainment: Josh Hutcherson; 'Atlanta'; Zachary Quinto; Adam Lambert 2015-08-25
NUNN ON ONE: MUSIC How Swede it is: Talking with singer Tove Lo 2015-08-25
BENT NIGHTS Coin; Ezra Furman 2015-08-25
DANCING ABOUT ARCHITECTURE Annual September collection 2015-08-19
Upcoming in local art, music, sports 2015-08-19
NUNN ON ONE: MUSIC Jordin Sparks: On '90s music, looking fit, new CD 2015-08-19
Entertainment news: Ellen; Eddie Redmayne; Dolly Parton; Sam Smith 2015-08-18
NUNN ON ONE Amanda Lepore gives WCT some lip -- in a good way 2015-08-18
Bank to house Knuckles collection 2015-08-18

Copyright © 2015 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.