The Blind Boys of Alabama
The Blind Boys of Alabama are recognized worldwide as living legends of gospel music. Celebrated by The Grammy Awards and The National Endowment for the Arts with Lifetime Achievement Awards, inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, honored by performing for two presidents in the White House, and winners of five Grammy Awards, they have attained the highest levels of achievement in a career that spans over 70 years and shows no signs of diminishing. This fact is more than evidenced by the group's latest album, the country-inspired Take the High Road (2011). Longevity and major awards aside, The Blind Boys have earned praise for their remarkable interpretations of everything from traditional gospel favorites to contemporary spiritual material by acclaimed songwriters such as Curtis Mayfield, Ben Harper, Eric Clapton, Prince, and Tom Waits. Their performances have been experienced by millions on The Tonight Show, the Late Show with David Letterman, the Grammy Awards telecast, 60 Minutes, and on their own holiday PBS Special. The group's live shows are roof-raising musical events that appeal to audiences of all cultures, as evidenced by an international itinerary that has taken them to virtually every continent.
With a voice as powerful as Etta James and a story as compelling as Tina Turner, LaVette is finally embracing the superstar status that has eluded her since the sixties. Justice has been served. Her time has come.
Two major creative endeavors - a brilliantly reflective album, Thankful N' Thoughtful, and a riveting autobiography, A Woman Like Me - will be released this fall. Together, they present Bettye at the top of her form, an artist with the unflinching courage to confront her past while reshaping her future.
At the heart of the Bettye LaVette story, whether sung as a song or narrated in a book, is the notion of creative survival. It is her voice that both announces and ensures that survival; it is her voice that, no matter how dire the circumstances, lets you know that she will not be denied. It is her voice that compels you to listen to every word she says, sings or writes. That voice - rough, tender, sensuous and soaring - is an instrument of inspiration.
"Like all voices," says Bettye, "mine has changed over the years. I'd like to think that the change has to do with wisdom. I'm far more selective about what songs I'll sing. If I can't re-sculpt them and, in many instances actually reinvent them to be part of my story, I can't make them come to life."
Bettye LaVette's life story is nothing short of miraculous.