Monday, January 19, 2009

Great Show

Amazingly prescient as he so often is, Darryl chose a Bettye LaVette CD to take with us on our drive to Charlotte this weekend. Imagine our joy when we turned on HBO's coverage of the Inaugural opening ceremony on Steve's dazzling HD flat screen LCD Sony Sunday night and there she was singing to Obama and the millions gathering to celebrate his Presidency.
Here's a brief article on her followed by a link to a description of the others who gave such a passionate and rousing perfomance Sunday:

Bettye LaVette performs at inauguration party: 'The greatest thing that ever happened to me'

Posted by Federico Martinez | The Muskegon Chronicle January 19, 2009 14:04PM

Categories: Ear Wax
Bettye LaVette, pictured her in a file photo not related to the inauguration, sang Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" at Sunday's inauguration celebration.

Her voice was hoarse from hours of rehearsal.

But, there was no mistaking the pride and joy rhythm and blues singer Bettye LaVette was feeling from being asked to perform at President-elect Barrack Obama's inaugural celebration on Sunday.

"It feels like the greatest thing that's ever happened to me." said LaVette, as we spoke by phone one day prior to the event. "I'm overwhelmed."

A staunch Obama supporter, LaVette was well-aware that she would be a participant in a history-making event -- the seating of the first black American as U.S. president.

As we continued to talk, it became apparent that there was even more personal significance involved for LaVette.

"I feel like I'm singing for Frank and Pearl and Sam and Otis," LaVette told me.

Frank and Pearl (Haskin) are LaVette's now deceased parents, who encouraged their daughter's singing aspirations. Sam (Cooke) and Otis (Redding) -- legendary R&B performers -- were old family friends, who LaVette shared a musicial kinship with.

Like Cooke and Redding, LaVette spent her early career struggling against segregation and prejudice.

Born Betty Haskins in 1946, her parents, Frank and Pearl lived in the housing projects of Muskegon Heights.

LaVette's first record, "My Man -- He's a Loving Man," was a top 10 selection on the R&B charts in 1962. But, due to a combination of personal tragedy, bad luck and poor career decisions, LaVette spent most of the next four decades toiling in near obscurity.

When we first spoke -- back in 2002 -- LaVette was still mourning the death of her mother. Offers to perform were appearing with less frequency. She appeared to be just another forgetten r&b singer whose best days were far behind.

The ever-determined LaVette would not let that be.

In 2003 LaVette recorded, "A Woman Like Me," which earned her the W.C. Handy Award "Comeback Blues Album of the Year."

Subsequent recordings have garnered critical acclaim, national TV appearances, and most recently, a 2008 Grammy Award nomination for her latest release, "The Scene of the Crime."

LaVette took advantage of an invitation to perform a show-stealing performance of "The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me," during "The 31st Kennedy Center Honors," in December.

That performance earned her an invite to Sunday's inauguration celebration.

When the moment arrived, LaVette and pop singer Jon Bon Jovi took the stage in front of a live audience of 800,000, including the new First Family. Millions of more people viewed the event from the TVs.

For those who know LaVette, the moment was, well, pure Bettye.

LaVette is known for her skill at taking another songwriter's lyrics and transforming them into her own autobiographical tale. Her adaption of the Sam Cooke classic, "A Change is Gonna Come," was no different.

"I used to try to go to the movies and I tried to go downtown
But somebody was always trying to tell me, little girl you can't come around,
It's been a long, long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will."

I listen to her sing the new lyrics and it makes me think about all the personal and career struggles Bettye has endured thoughout the years.

And I can hear her singing those words to Frank and Pearl:

"It's been a long, long time coming

But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will."

And here's the link to the rest:

Obama's Lincoln Memorial Concert



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