I fell in love with Bettye LaVette in an instant! I was watching the Kennedy Center Honors in 2008 and this woman who I had never seen before walked across the stage, stood in front of the microphone and delivered a soul-wrenching rendition of the 1973 song “Love, Reign o’er Me” in tribute to Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who. I sat on the edge of my couch, taking each moment of her emotional performance and jumping to my feet and applauding at home, just like the audition did on television.
I rewound the tape to hear her introduction again, jotted down her name and immediately began learning all that I could online about this incomparable talent.
Then in January 2009, I saw her perform again on television, this time a duet with Jon Bon Jovi at “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.” The two sang a version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”