CNN: Let's talk about some of the major figures you mention in the book, people you knew and interacted with. For instance, the late Tammi Terrell. When we hear about Tammi in the book, she's pulled a gun on you. Why would Tammi do that?
LaVette: It was jokingly. She just kicked the dressing room door open and said, "I hear you've been looking for me." But I didn't know who she was. I had never seen her. We became good road friends.
CNN: You appeared in the touring production of "Bubbling Brown Sugar" with the legendary Cab Calloway.
LaVette: He was old and cantankerous, and he really didn't have that much admiration for most of the artists of today, and you know, he had seen the Cotton Club dancers dance, and then he saw the Bubbling Brown Sugar dancers dance. I mean, it's hard for me to have seen Otis Redding, to have seen James Brown in his prime, to have seen Marvin Gaye and then find a -- I won't say a name -- and then for me to find (one of today's young stars) amazing, I can't do that.
CNN: In the book, you say of Diana Ross -- Diane, as she was known to people back then-- "We saw her as a stuck-up bitch with a small voice and big ambition." Do you feel she earned her success?
LaVette: She had to work, and I really believe she has become a fine entertainer. I admire the brave steps she took. I knew exactly where she came from, so I know how unusual it was to her to have been in a movie. It's like me writing a book. The things I say in the book were who these people were when I knew them (back then). I don't even really know who they are now. Because I haven't had the opportunity to make any money and be with them (as a peer). (My mentor) Jim Lewis always told me, 'If they don't know who you is, you ain't.' And I've always lived by that.
CNN: Even when you had kind of fallen off the map in the music business, there were fans abroad who never forgot you.
LaVette: I had at least three fans, like in Vietnam. When I'm sitting there depressed, thinking no one cares anything, to receive a phone call or a letter from Vietnam and have someone send me a picture of them holding my 45 of "Let Me Down Easy" or "My Man," some days, that kept me alive. I mean spiritually. I mean, I really don't have the nerve to kill myself. I feel like if I've got the nerves to blow my brains out, I've got the nerve to carry on.
CNN: Eventually, your musical fortunes turned around, and now you're a two-time Grammy-nominated artist. How do you sum up your incredible life?
LaVette: I don't know how to sum it all up or that it need be summed up. You know, all of those things happened to me. I'm very glad that I came out of most all of them almost unscathed, because I have so many dead friends. I consider myself extremely fortunate and then too, the gift that is my talent is just that: a gift. You cannot be taught to sing. You can only be taught to sing correctly. Nobody sings but birds and people. If you can sing, it was just given to you, and so I'm always mindful of that, probably. I'm greatly honored to be able to sing. It's all I've got.