Sunday, June 09, 2013

Bettye Swann - a soul legend returns

As comebacks go, Bettye Swann's return to performing at the Rare Soul Weekender in Cleethorpes last night must be one of the most successful ever. The Louisiana born singer apparently hasn't been on a stage since 1980. She's never been to the UK or to Europe before, and although her 1967 hit Make Me Yours is something of a deep soul classic, most of us never imagined that we would see and hear her sing it live. Yet here she was, in good voice and enjoying herself, singing her heart out to a big audience who clearly adored her and knew every word of her songs.
Sadly, the sound quality was not good, particularly at the start, but Bettye's personality shone through and as the show went on she came to realise just what a great reception she was receiving and a huge grin came over her face. Born in 1944, Bettye looks more like a grandmother today than the beautiful young girl featured in the 1960s photos, but she wore a white trouser suit identical to the one she wore for these early publicity shots. Her set included several of her better known songs, including Victim Of A Foolish Heart, Don't Take My Mind, Today I Started Loving You Again and the more middle of the road I Want Sunday Back Again. But for me, it was her two biggest records - Kiss My Love Goodbye and the classic Make Me Yours - that were the stand outs, and both were reprised in the two encores demanded by the crowd.
One of 14 children, Bettye was born in Arcadia, Louisiana, and moved to Los Angeles aged 19, where she signed for the Money label. After a minor hit with Don't Wait Too Long, she had a huge hit in 1967 with Make Me Yours, which topped the Billboard R and B chart. She moved to Capitol where she had country/soul success with Don't Touch Me and several country numbers recorded with Wayne Shuler, son of Louisiana producer Eddie Shuler, which were released a few years back by Honest Jon's Records. From there she went to Atlantic, where she had minor hits with Kiss My Love Goodbye, Victim Of A Foolish Heart and Today I Started Loving You Again. She duetted with Sam Dees on Storybook Children for Big Tree Records, but within a few years she had retired to Las Vegas, working in education under her married name of Betty Barton and effectively disappearing from view.
But now she's back, and show organiser Ady Croasdell was not exaggerating when he described Bettye's visit to the UK as a 'soul pilgrimage': it certainly was, for everyone who was there, and who at last had a chance to see Bettye in action.
Here are a few of Bettye's classic 45s.
1. Bettye's first Money 45 - Don't Wait Too Long/ What's My Life Coming To.
2. Her first UK release - Make Me Yours/ I Will Not Cry.
3. Her 1975 duet with Sam Dees - Storybook Children/ Just As Sure. Here's the B-side.


At 1:31 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Dave Carroll wrote:
I revised my list last night, changing one title and adding another, which Tony Rounce appears to confirm in his post on the Southern Soul Group website. He also gave a different title to the first song. I did think that there was a possibility that it was the song, but I couldn't believe that I would miss the repetition of the words 'falling in love', even though the sound was poor at the time. There is also a very interesting post by JSoulSmith on the event. Perhaps somebody will come up with an accurate setlist, so I can see how many errors I have made.
1 I Think I'm Falling In Love (Money)
2 Victim Of A Foolish Heart (Atlantic)
3 The Man Who Said No (Money)
4 Kiss My Love Goodbye (Atlantic)
5 My Heart Is Closed For The Season (Capitol)
6 Don't Take My Mind (Money)
7 Today I Started Loving You Again (Capitol)
8 Make Me Yours (Money)
9 You Gave Me Love (Money)
10 I Want Sunday Back Again (Atlantic)
11 Time To Say Goodbye (Atlantic)
Encore 1 Kiss My Love Goodbye (after singing some of Make Me Yours a capella with the audience)
Encore 2 Make Me Yours

At 8:55 pm , Blogger john marriott said...

see my email to you re the first song Dave but I'm sure you've got em all right here
Great show - one I thought I'd never see.


At 9:24 pm , Anonymous John S said...

Sounds like it was well worth the visit up to the back of beyond, Nick!

At 10:04 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Yes, well worth the trip to deepest north east Lincs. One of those spine tingling moments!

At 4:54 am , Blogger ms toi said...

I could not be HAPPIER to see Bettye performing! She and her husband, George were friends with my parents Reuben The Mad Lad Washington and Sam 'Joyce'. I have looked for her over the years! Bettye was an outstanding songwriter with the sweetest timbre in her voice that was distinctive and lovely. However, the best of Bettye Swann is who she is as a person. Of all the celebrities whose company I experienced as a child from Tina Turner...the list is long...none did I adore like I did Bettye! Witty, down to earth...just an adorable woman!


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