“Forty years I kept singing…before the money came.” from her song The Battle of Bettye LaVette
I take every opportunity to see Bettye LaVette sing. She puts every fiber of her being into all her songs, which makes her a soul singer down to her bones.
The first time I saw her was a few years ago at Moondogs where the roof has a hunk of blue plastic & when it’s raining theres a bucket for the water. Last Sunday 6/5 she was at The Altar Bar & everyone was whooping, hollering & leaping to their feet because of her astonishing performance. I dragged 6 people along who were all amazed & delighted to have shared in the experience.
In 1962 she cut a record for Atlantic and then it was never released. Judging from the lyrics of the above mentioned song she had to live with her Mom to support herself. The disappointment clearly has not crushed her spirit. Her passion is palpable in her voice, face & body.
So many people are crushed by disappointment. Relationships are crushed by disappointment. Learning to bear disappointment is a huge part of living. I believe acceptance is the opposite of disappointment. I believe anger is part of the road to acceptance.
I believe bitter is not a place where souls can live. If Bettye had become bitter she would not be able to sing full throttle the way that she does.
So the trick is to be angry that things are not working out & keep on doing the hard work. I get kids who believe their garage bands are so great they don’t need to practice much. Surviving disappointment means not giving up the hard work. Bettye is testimony to that.
Everyone has to figure out how to bear disappointment. Parents interfere too much in attempting to minimize disappointment for their children. When I would say “No” and my kids would protest, I would say “Clearly you need more practice in disappointment.”
You listen to her voice and you know she feels the words she sings. You admire her wiry 65 yr. old body twisting to the music on stilettos.
I held my breath hoping for my favorite song & sure enough it was last, without the band. Her voice soars as she sings “I do not want, what I haven’t got” and you know she means it because she’s lived it.