PUBLISHED: 12:32 EST, 23 September 2012 | UPDATED: 14:09 EST, 23 September 2012
Fifty years in the music industry hasn’t mellowed Bettye LaVette. If anything, it’s embittered the 66-year-old singer and driven her to air Motown’s dirty laundry.
In her new memoir, ‘A Woman Like Me,’ she claims she had an affair with Aretha Franklin’s husband, helped a 16-year-old Stevie Wonder lose his virginity, slept with Otis Redding and watched as Diana Ross was stripped down to her slip and panties by the wife of a man who pursued the legendary singer.
After wallowing in obscurity for decades, even working as a prostitute for a time, she staged an incredible comeback and was invited to perform for President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Rise to the top: Bettye Lavette languished in near-obscurity for decades before becoming a household name when she performed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony with Jon Bon Jovi
Tell-all: LaVette started out in the Motown music industry in the 1960s when she was 16 and saw the rise and fall of most of Detroit’s big names in music
LaVette’s no-holds-barred book reveals the sordid drug and alcohol-fueled world of Motown record studios in 1960s Detroit, Michigan.
Sex of all kinds — especially extramarital affairs — was commonplace in those days. It was treated as currency, even.
LaVette says she slept with her very first record producer when she was a 16-year-old rising star.
Among LaVette’s conquests were Ted White, the philandering first husband or Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding, who offered to leave his pregnant girlfriend to marry her, she writes, according to theSunday Times.
She also organized a special party in her basement so Stevie Wonder, promising blind, 16-year-old musician, could lose his virginity.
She says she actively courted Marvin Gaye, but when the ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ singer finally showed up at her room, she was already with someone else.
Naming names: Lavette knew most of Motown’s biggest stars and doesn’t spare them from her memoir. She blasts Diana Ross (left) and claims she helped Stevie Wonder lose his virginity at age 16
Gaye has been dead 28 years, murdered by his father, but LaVette says she’s still ‘kicking herself’ for missing her chance with him.
LaVette reveals a culture where men had ‘home wives and road wives’ and jumped in and out of bed with all manner of women.
She also pulls back the curtain on a violent culture — men often ‘slapped around’ their wives and she says even Franklin and Tina Turner fell victim to domestic abuse for their husbands.
However, the bulk of her bitterness is aimed at Diana Ross, whom she calls ‘a stuck-up b**** with a small voice and big ambition.’
LaVette recalled one incident in which the jealous wife of a song-writer who had a crush on the diva attacked her at a nightclub and tried to strip off her dress.
Finest company: LaVette, who says she was once so poor she worked as a prostitute, is seen here (far right) with Obama. Also pictured are (left to right) Shakira and U2 band mates Bono and the Edge
‘America’s Supreme sweetheart was left standing in her slip, panties and bra,’ LaVette writes, gleefully.
Despite wide success with the smouldering 1962 ‘My Man – He’s a Loving Man,’ LaVette failed to win the success as a young artist that her contemporaries enjoyed.
While Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Dionne Warwick soared to national fame and multimillion-dollar fortunes, LaVette languished in near-obscurity.
Finally, a chance find by a Motown aficionado in France led to one of her records being released in Europe, where it became a hit.
That fame led to new recording deals. In 2008, she brought down the house with a version of ‘Love Reign’ by the Who at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
The success led the Obama team to invite her to sing a duet of ‘Change is Gonna Come’ with Jon Bon Jovi at the president’s 2009 inauguration celebration.