Bonnie Raitt learned from the world’s greatest blues musicians – and became one of them herself. Here she reveals five tracks that helped turn her into a mean guitar slinger.
Learning her craft from the likes of Mississippi Fred McDowell and John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt’s speciality is playing slide-guitar on songs that range from blues, country, and rock to heart-melting ballads.
The 72-year-old from Burbank, California, has released 18 studio-albums since the early 1970s. Commercial success came along with 1989’s Nick Of Time and 1991’s Luck Of The Draw, for which she was rewarded with eight Grammys in total
Raitt is a prolific recording artist, releasing new material and touring with her buddies James Taylor, Paul Simon, and Jackson Brown, to name a few. Her latest LP is called Just Like That…, a concept album about the loss of 14 of her friends due to Covid-19.
Raitt took time out from her busy touring schedule (54 shows in 2022 and counting) to talk about her five all-time favourite tracks – listen to the show and read up on her song choices below…
Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
Bob Dylan – “The Times They Are A-Changin’”
“This came out when I was fourteen years old, and it´s such a touchstone for me on how powerful music can motivate people to be active politically and right the wrongs they see in society and call out the hypocrisy. And to this day, the social activism of Bob’s music in those early sixties has really stayed with me. He’s a total inspiration for our whole generation.”
Sandy Denny – Who Knows Where The Time Goes? (1969)
Sandy Denny – “Who Knows Where The Time Goes?”
“I loved finding out about my heritage as a young woman learning folk songs from Joan Baez’s album and Judy Collins, and I fell in love with Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny and her incredibly evocative, beautiful voice. Sadly, she died way too soon after her early years with Fairport Convention. I want you guys to memorialise her in this gorgeous song.”
Mississippi Fred McDowell – Write Me A Few Of Your Lines (1962)
Mississippi Fred McDowell – “Write Me A Few Of Your Lines”
© Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
“I was a complete blues-hound for my whole teenage years and taught myself to play off of every record I could find. And when I was 18 I had the honour of meeting Fred and his friendship and mentorship has meant so much to me. I want to honour him. He passed away in ’71 – one of the greatest of the Delta Bluesmen and such a beloved personality on stage and off.”
Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You (1967)
Aretha Franklin – “I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You”
© Atlantic Records
“Of all the people that influenced me – blues, folk, pop – Aretha is the queen for me. Her phrasing, her soul, her passion, her ache: there’s never been anybody better. And if I could only pick one song that influenced how I sing and how I approach doing torch and soul ballads, I Never Loved A Man is the greatest performance I’ve ever heard. Aretha is the queen.”
The Isley Brothers – Twist And Shout (1959)
The Isley Brothers – “Twist And Shout”
© Caribe Sound
“When I was nine years old, I just was figuring out boyfriends and going to dances at my summer camp. We rocked out to this record that was a huge hit, and The Isley Brothers continued for decade after decade – including now. They are just incredible artists and one of my most influential bands ever. ‘Twist And Shout’ in the original form – get digging on it.”