Heard on CultureShift

The Bettye LaVette Cover That Had Me Searching For A 1930’s Songwriter

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Image credit: Natalie Perea with Unsplashed

LaVette’s new album “Blackbirds” has her covering songs popularized by Black female singers. But one of the tracks, “Blues for the Weepers,” has a hidden history few know about.

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For this week’s Pick of the Week, I had to go down a huge rabbit hole. Some might say… a Roger Rabbit hole. 

The song is called “Blues for the Weepers,” from Bettye LaVette’s forthcoming release “Blackbirds,” where she covers some of the great Black female singers of the past hundred years, including Ruth Brown, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, among others (and the title track by The Beatles). 

On the album, Levette covers Della Reese’ singing “Blues for the Weepers” from 1965.

But when I searched for the original songwriter, I ended up discovering it was an enormous hit for Lou Rawls that same year. It’s almost impossible to find an earlier version. 

But neither Rawls nor Reese wrote the song. It took some digging to trace the song back to the original songwriter, a film score composer named Max Rich who went on to write music heard across the century… including in the classic 1988 film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

Click on the player above to hear about Rob Reinhart’s search for the songwriter behind “Blues for the Weepers.”

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Rob Reinhart, Host, Rob Reinhart’s Essential Music and Acoustic Cafe

Rob Reinhart is host of WDET’s “Essential Music,” “CultureShift” and the syndicated program “Acoustic Cafe,” heard on 125 stations around the country, and stations from Greece to New Zealand. He’s voted in 10 presidential elections: 4 wins, 6 losses.

rreinhart@wdet.org Follow @RobReinhart

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