A Woman Like Me

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Acclaimed R&B singer Bettye LaVette celebrates her storied career in show business with her stunning memoir, A Woman Like Me, and her new album, Thankful N' Thoughtful.

As a teenager in Detroit, Bettye LaVette had a hit single with “My Man—He’s a Lovin’ Man.” By the time she was twenty, she had faded back into obscurity and was barely surviving in New York City. For the next forty years, despite being associated with legends such as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Marvin ...

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A Woman Like Me: A Memoir

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Overview

Acclaimed R&B singer Bettye LaVette celebrates her storied career in show business with her stunning memoir, A Woman Like Me, and her new album, Thankful N' Thoughtful.

As a teenager in Detroit, Bettye LaVette had a hit single with “My Man—He’s a Lovin’ Man.” By the time she was twenty, she had faded back into obscurity and was barely surviving in New York City. For the next forty years, despite being associated with legends such as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, and James Brown, she remained relatively unknown outside a circle of devoted fans. Every time it seemed that her dream of stepping into the spotlight was finally coming true, bad luck smashed her hopes, again and again. Then, after a lifetime of singing in clubs and lounges, her unforgettable televised performances at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors and at President Obama’s pre-Inaugural Concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 2009 won her the recognition she had sought for her entire life.

Bettye LaVette’s career has been a one-of-a-kind roller-coaster ride through the world of music; it has taken her from the peaks to the pits and back. In this unflinchingly honest memoir, she boldly recounts her freewheeling childhood—her parents ran an illegal liquor business out of their living room, which was frequented by some of the top acts of the forties and fifties—her short-lived conquest of the R&B world in the 1960s, her decline into poverty and despair, and her recent comeback and career revival, with two Grammy-nominated CDs and numerous appearances on major television talk shows. Poignant, brazen, and fearless, A Woman Like Me is a tour de force from one of the most outspoken female performers singing today—and she’s a force to be reckoned with.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
LaVette’s autobiography reads like an R&B song only she could perform—soulful and honest. As a teenager growing up in 1960s Detroit, LaVette recorded a hit song, “My Man—He’s a Lovin’ Man,” that catapulted her life into a crazy spiral of personal and professional chaos. Her path crossed those of Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Berry Gordy, and she describes the seamier sides of Detroit and Los Angeles while her journey through sex, drink, and drugs displays her inner strength to survive. Along with top music writers and musicians within elite record labels LaVette honed her craft, yet still remained a minor fan favorite and never became a household name. Her quest serves as one of the most authentic inside looks at the American music industry, and LaVette pulls no punches. Her dream became reality when televised appearances at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors and Obama’s Lincoln Memorial concert put LaVette on the map after a working lifetime. LaVette’s tale is a treat for music buffs. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
Unrepentant, unpleasant memoir by the well-traveled R&B vocalist. Kicking off with a lurid recollection of being dangled from the top of a building by her lover/pimp, the singer's autobiography charts one missed chance and blown opportunity after another on the way to belated renown 40 years into her career. Born Betty Haskins in Michigan, she was a high school dropout, married and a mother by the age of 15, and ran wild through the Motor City clubs. Rechristened Bettye LaVette, she dove into the music scene, notching a top-10 national R&B hit on Atlantic in 1962. While she reached the top 40 several more times through the early '80s, LaVette never experienced sustained success. Her latter-day albums for the independent label Anti- finally brought her the audience she coveted. She rings up her limited career to "buzzard luck" and the apathy of her record-industry associates (who are usually condemned with a coarse epithet). Her own recounting suggests she was the victim of her own monumentally misguided judgment. She indulged heartily in alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and sex--she counted Otis Redding, Solomon Burke and Jackie Wilson among her many paramours, sustained a decades-long affair with record exec Clarence Paul, had a long-term female lover and worked off and on as a prostitute. She praises her mentor Jim Lewis for broadening her musical reach and repeatedly steering her back on track, but rewards most other music-biz pros with suspicion and undisguised contempt. There's no denying LaVette's great interpretive gifts, but she emerges here as a petty, self-deluding and ungrateful figure. Listen to the records and give this self-serving, embittered book a wide berth.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399159381
  • Publisher: Blue Rider Press
  • Publication date: 9/27/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Bettye LaVette

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 12, 2013

    Candid, no-holds-barred memoir by a gifted singer who was around

    Candid, no-holds-barred memoir by a gifted singer who was around in the early days of Motown and never quite caught a break until much later in life. LaVette is a tough lady who doesn't mince her words, but this memoir also captures the consummate professionalism that makes her so memorable as a performer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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