Play lady play: Bettye LaVette – and a kiss on the mouth

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

In this series were will usually try to select from multiple artists, but for this one we wanted to highlight the work of one artist in particular – Bettye LaVette. Here’s an article and interview with her where she talks about meeting Dylan.

It’s worth reading the whole thing, but the ending is quite amusing…

I was in Italy on the same festival that he was on and coming out of my dressing room. Security would not let anyone out of the dressing room, and I said, “Well, why?” And they said, “Because Mr. Dylan is going onstage,” and I’m like, “Well, I don’t care! Let me out of my dressing room!” So I come out of my dressing room and I’m angry because he’s got my band and me and everybody trapped while he takes 50 steps to the stage. So I’m walking along the same path that he is, but on the other side of the room, and I said, “Hey, Robert Dylan!” And he was walking with his bass player and his bass player mouthed to him: “That’s Bettye LaVette!” He walked over to me, took my face in both his hands, kissed me dead on the mouth and walked on the stage. So that’s what we’ve done thus far… 

Aaron writes…

“Her 2018 Dylan covers album “Things Have Changed” is easily one of my favourite Dylan covers albums by a single artist. I’ll come to some selections from that shortly,  but first I wanted to call out some of her previous Dylan covers. As you will see she has a penchant for choosing some less obvious tracks to cover than others, particularly from the mid 80s to early 90s. It won’t be long until she’s covered all of Under The Red Sky and Oh Mercy at this rate!”

First up it’s “Everything Is Broken” which opened her 2012 album “Thankful n Thoughtful”.

The point here is that what we get here is not another singer singing Dylan’s piece, but a singer giving the song a completely new interpretation – just as Bob himself does to his own work.

And this takes some doing because this is a 12 bar blues, which musically has been recreated 83 trillion times (at least).

Then she contributed an amazing version of “Most Of The Time” to the “Chimes Of Freedom” album.   This is one of those albums that seems to have differing availability on different continents.   Hopefully at least one of these two will work for you.

What we find is that there is a really complex accompaniment going on behind the singer, but that is not distracting from her voice or the lyrics.  It’s a clever achievement.

In 2015 she again chose to open her album, “Worthy”, with another Dylan track, this time it’s a slinky version of “Unbelievable”.

Then the aforementioned Dylan covers album “Things Have Changed” came in 2018. If you have an hour to spare you could do worse than listen to the whole thing on YouTube or Spotify. It really is something, the track listing is not what you expect at all.

Here’s “Political World” with Keith Richards. What really works here is that the completely new approach to the accompaniment could, in other hands, interfere with the song, but here it feels as natural as the accompaniment Dylan himself chose for his version.  After a few moments one stops remembering the original and enjoys what is happening here.

“Seeing The Real You At Last”

And to end, Tony slips in his favourite from the album.   “Two of the dance clubs I frequent in Nottingham (England) regularly play Dylan’s original version and I actually didn’t think it would be possible for anyone to produce any version of this song which would have me listening to it.  I couldn’t dance to this version, but it certainly holds my attention.”

You might also enjoy: Play Lady Play: I believe in you

Untold Dylan: who we are what we do

Untold Dylan is written by people who want to write for Untold Dylan.  It is simply a forum for those interested in the work of the most famous, influential and recognised popular musician and poet of our era, to read about, listen to and express their thoughts on, his lyrics and music.

We welcome articles, contributions and ideas from all our readers.  Sadly no one gets paid, but if you are published here, your work will be read by a fairly large number of people across the world, ranging from fans to academics who teach English literature.  If you have an idea, or a finished piece send it as a Word file to with a subject line saying that it is for publication on Untold Dylan.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with approaching 6000 active members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.  Not every index is complete but I do my best.

But what is complete is our index to all the 604 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found, on the A to Z page.  I’m proud of that; no one else has found that many songs with that much information.  Elsewhere the songs are indexed by theme and by the date of composition. See for example Bob Dylan year by year.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *