Sometimes, although an artist has only recorded a couple of albums, these albums prove to be more important and influential than artists who have released a dozen albums. We can all think of great artists who released just one or two albums and then disappeared from the music industry. Two female soul singers I can think of, off the top of my head are Doris Troy and Bettye Swann. Both are among the greatest female soul singers of all time, and both released just three albums. The best known of Doris Troy’s three albums, is the classic deep soul album I’m A Loser. 

Of Bettye Swann’s three albums, 1968s’ Soul View Now in 1968, was her best known album. It’s now regarded as a Southern Soul classic, although it only reached number forty-eight in the US R&B Charts. Soul View Now was just Betty Swann’s second album, her first being Make Me Yours, released in 1967 on Capitol Records. It was named after her number one R&B Single, Make Me Yours, which brought Bettye’s name to the attention of American music fans. Following her split from her hen manager, Louisiana’ DJ Al Scott in 1968, Bettye moved to Georgia, where she secured a contract with Capitol Records. It was for Capitol that she recorded Soul View Now and her final ever album, Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me.

Bettye’s follow-up to Soul View Now, was Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me, released in 1969. Sadly, it wasn’t as commercially successful an album as its predecessor, but still contains some wonderful music. After her contract with Capitol ended, Bettye signed to Atlantic Records, where only she only had a couple of minor hits. These were Victim of A Foolish Heart in 1972, which reached number sixteen in the US R&B Charts and sixty-one in the US Billboard 100 and Today I Started Loving You Again in 1973 which reached number forty-six in the US Billboard 100. Bettye still performed until the mid-seventies, performing her final concert in 1980, the year her husband and manager George Barton died. Between the time Bettye Swann left Capitol Records and her retirement in 1980, Bettye never recorded another album. Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me proved to be the final album she released, and it’s that album I’ll now tell you about.

Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me opens with the title track, Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me. Rasping horns, chiming guitars and the rhythm section open the track, before Bettye’s emotive voice enters, accompanied by sweet, female backing vocals. Bettye sings about the hurt her man has caused her, asking him to set her free, against a horn drenched arrangement, that’s driven along by guitars and the rhythm section. It’s a song full of sadness and emotion, featuring a heartfelt vocal from Bettye.

There’s a much more subtle sound on Little Things Mean A Lot when the track opens. It’s just piano, bass and gentle, backing vocalists, that open the track, before Bettye’s tender vocal enters, accompanied by chiming guitars. Gently rasping horns combine with the backing vocalists, and are the perfect accompaniment for Bettye. Then, the arrangement gets fuller and louder, with horns blazing, guitars chiming and shimmering, while Bettye and her backing vocalists sing with a gentle, tenderness. Although this is quite a contrast, the arrangement never overpowers Bettye’s beautiful vocal, which is made all the better by the addition of the backing vocalists, who sympathetically back Bettye.

When You’re Up To Your Same Old Tricks Again opens it has a dramatic introduction with a piano and blazing horns combining, before Bettye’s vocal enters. There’s a sense of sadness and even anger in Bettye’s voice, with Bettye suspicious, thinking her partner is cheating on her again. Like before, female backing vocalists accompany her, their voices soaring, emotively, reflecting the turmoil in Bettye’s life. As the track progresses, this sense of sadness and anger is reflected in the fuller arrangement. Here horns bray, guitars chime as they, and the rhythm section, drive the track along. The guitars, horns and a piano are key to the success of track’s sound, giving it a sense of drama and emotion, that’s perfect for Bettye’s suspicious, angry vocal.

Today I Started Loving You Again sees blazing horns open the track, before another emotive vocal from Bettye enters. She’s fallen back in love with her former boyfriend, who she thought she’d gotten over. Against a faster arrangement, that’s dominated by braying horns, a dramatic rhythm section and soaring, almost gospel influenced female backing vocalists, Bettye sings of the heartache she’s experienced and will face yet, again. As she does this, the arrangement reflects the drama and turmoil of her life, with horns and drums punctuating the arrangement dramatically, reflecting the drama and heartache ahead for Bettye. 

Side one of Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me closes with Just Because You Can’t Be Mine. This is a much slower track, with organ, piano and chiming guitars combining with the rhythm section before Bettye’s tender, thoughtful vocal enters, accompanied by female backing vocalists. Their voices are more powerful and emotive, as they sweep in soulfully. Meanwhile, the arrangement meanders along with rasping horns, guitars, piano and an organ all combining to produce one of the most emotive, soulful arrangements on the album. It just swings beautifully along, with Bettye’s tender, thoughtful voice full of sadness because the man she wants can’t be hers. 

Side two of Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me opens with Traces, a slower, dramatic sounding song. It opens with braying horns punctuating the arrangement accompanied by a piano and rhythm section. They give way to a gentle, sad vocal from Bettye, who sings the song with care, as she reflects on an old relationship that didn’t work out. Female backing vocalists and lush sweeping strings add to the emotion and sadness of the track, while bursts of blazing horns add an element of drama, as guitars chime and quiver in sympathy with Bettye. Together, the combination of Bettye’s sad, yet gentle and beautiful vocal and Wayne Shuler’s arrangement and production combine to produce one of the album’s highlights.

Chained and Bound opens with burst of rasping horns punctuating the sound, before the rhythm section and guitars drive the track along, with Bettye’s powerful, but wary sounding voice sitting atop the arrangement. Guitars chime, while horns blaze and female backing vocalists subtly accompany Bettye. Meanwhile, Bettye feels trapped and chained by her possessive lover, but strangely, doesn’t mind because she loves him. When she sings this, she doesn’t sound certain, almost sounding defeated. Behind her, the arrangement rises and falls, with horns central to sound. They provide bursts of drama, sometimes dominating the arrangement, while guitars provide a contrast to the horns. When combined with Bettye’s sometimes weary sounding, but powerful vocal, the result is a song that fails to convince you that Bettye’s happy in her relationship.

Ain’t That Peculiar has a dramatic sound, when the track opens. It’s a combination of rasping horns, chiming guitars, piano and rhythm section that accompany Bettye’s vocal. It’s full of hurt and pain, as she sings about the man whose hurt, betrayed and left her alone. Meanwhile, short sharp bursts of piano, horns, rhythm section and guitars combine to produce a drama laden, backdrop for Bettye’s vocal. As the arrangement chugs along, backing vocalists cut in, their swooning, cooing voices combining perfectly with the horns to add drama, but sometimes, producing a sympathetic sounding accompaniment to Bettye’s emotive vocal. However, it’s the hurt and pain in Bettye’s voice that makes this such a powerful and emotive track.

Probably, by far, the best known track on the album is Stand By Your Man. Of all the versions I’ve ever heard, Candi Staton’s version is in my opinion, the definitive version. How will Bettye’s version compare to Candi’s? Straight away, the introduction is different, with bursts of blazing horns opening the track. The tempo is quicker, it swings along with Bettye’s strong, emotional and passionate voice delivering the lyrics beautifully. As usual, backing vocalists accompany Bettye, while a piano, blazing horns, rhythm section and guitars help the track swing, beautifully along. When compared with Candi’s definitive version, Bettye’s interpretation of the track is pretty good. She delivers the song with emotion and passion, against a swinging backdrop from producer Wayne Shuler.

Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me closes with Willie and Laura Mae Jones. Searing guitars, blazing horns and the rhythm section open the track, before Bettye, accompanied by cooing, sweeping backing vocalists enters. The arrangement is faster, with a fuller arrangement, where braying horns, chiming guitars and the rhythm section provide a dramatic, blazing arrangement. Later, a piano is added to the arrangement, and its addition is just the finishing touch to what’s a powerful, emotive and great sounding track. Of all the tracks on the album, it seems Bettye has reserved a one of her best vocals for this track. She delivers the lyrics with a combination of emotion and power, resulting in another stunning track.

It’s sad to thing that Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me was the final album Bettye Swann ever recorded. Although she recorded just three albums, they were three great albums. Some artists can record twenty or more albums, but never release one great album, never mind three. Although Bettye’s career didn’t end until she retired in 1980, these three albums were released between 1967 and 1969. After that, Bettye never released another album. To me that is a huge shame, as Bettye possessed a fantastic voice, and was a hugely talented singer. On Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me she delivers each song with a combination of sadness, anger, heartache and happiness. Behind her were a great band, and some hugely soulful backing vocalists. WIth Wayne Shuler producing the album, the result was a great album, that deserved to do much better. Unfortunately, it never matched the success of its predecessor Soul View Now. Sadly, Bettye’s husband and manager George Barton died in 1980, after which Bettye retired from the music industry. She  then worked in education in Las Vegas and became a Jehovah’s Witness. Nowadays, Bettye is sixty-seven years old, and in poor health. Apart from a $7,000 advance she received from Money Records, Bettye never made any money from music. That is sadly, a  familiar story. Of the Bettye Swann albums available today, there are two really good compilations available. These are a compilation released by Kent Records in 2001, which features the music she recorded for Money Records, and a 2004 compilation by Honest Jons entitled Bettye Swann which featuring the music she recorded for Capitol Records. Both compilations will allow you to hear some fantastic soul music from Bettye Swann, one of the most underrated soul singers ever. Standout Tracks: You’re Up To Your Same Old Tricks Again, Traces, Stand By Your Man and Willie and Laura Mae Jones. 


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    1. Bettye Swann : Don’t You Ever Get Tired Of Hurting Me? (1969) | Mr. Moo's What Da Funk

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