A Call from Bonnie Raitt: A story of love, loss and inspiration | GUEST COMMENTARY

on June 23, 2022 No comments
By Paul G. Pinsky

My wife Joan deeply loved Bonnie Raitt, as a musician and as a role model. Joan always saw Bonnie as a wonderfully strong, outspoken and progressive, independent woman.

Growing up, I admired Bonnie Raitt as well, for her social justice advocacy and activism. My early musical passions, on the other hand, leaned more male heavy, to musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne.

But after Joan and I met, fell in love and married, I found myself coming to share her intense passion for Bonnie Raitt’s music. In our household, I had the chief responsibility for keeping tabs on upcoming concerts, and I made sure to buy tickets whenever Bonnie came through our Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Over 35 years, we must have seen Bonnie Raitt in person at least 10 times, at venues that ranged from the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland and Wolf Trap in Virginia to Constitution Hall and the Kennedy Center in the District.

Our two daughters, now in their early and mid-30s, went through a musical evolution as well. They went from captive audience, forced to listen to Bonnie ‘s music on long car rides, to big fans.

Throughout all these years, Joan’s career in education was getting ever more demanding. She rose to a top administrative position in Special Education for one of the nation’s 20 largest public school systems, with responsibility over a mega-million dollar budget. In such a large system, not surprisingly, Joan ran into some bitter “office politics,” and she could take efforts to put roadblocks in her way, personally. Bonnie’s song, “I Will Not Be Broken,” would become Joan’s personal anthem.

We would end up able, by and large, to handle all the ups and downs of career and family life, at least until we faced the challenge of a gut-punch we had never expected: Joan’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in March 2019. At the time, Joan had just about reached her 63rd birthday.

Music — from Bonnie Raitt and anyone else — would quickly fade from our focus. Appointments with oncologists and chemotherapy treatments would soon fill our schedules, followed by proton therapy from our home outside Washington to trips to Baltimore’s University of Maryland Medical Center. Eventually, our treatment path led to the “Whipple procedure,” a surgery that aims to double the chances for a better five-year survival rate.

The doctors warned us beforehand that even initially successful surgery can go south. In Joan’s case, unfortunately, it did. Which brings me back to Bonnie Raitt.

What could I do for Joan in those final days? How could I lift her spirits when her life was ebbing away? I thought about Bonnie Raitt and, with some wonderful help, I tracked down email addresses and contacts for people close to her. Her personal assistant would soon prove invaluable. I had one question: “Would Bonnie be willing to call a lifelong supporter to lift her spirits in a most difficult time?”

The answer would be yes.

We had a few predictable fits and starts in setting the contact up, but finally, early in February 2020, we had everything all ready. About an hour before the scheduled call, I gave Joan some warning. I told her she’d be receiving a call from the West Coast. Was our friend Sharon, Joan asked, going to be calling? No, I replied, “Bonnie.”

“Bonnie who?” Joan asked.

“Bonnie Raitt,” I said.

Joan went into total shock. For just a moment, she could forget all about her oppressive prognosis.

At the scheduled time, Bonnie called. She and I spoke briefly. I told her about Joan and how much Bonnie’s music had always meant to her. I explained that I had been working for economic and social justice as a Maryland state legislator since the 1980s. Her response: “Keep on fighting.”

I then went upstairs and gave Joan the phone. Bonnie would be friendly, affirming and inquisitive, particularly about Joan’s lifelong commitment to children with disabilities. After almost 15 minutes, the call ended, leaving Joan in semi-shock, still trying to process that she had just spoken to the Bonnie Raitt.

Joan passed away six weeks later. I can only hope she had sweet dreams after the call strong enough to banish — if only for a few nights — the end she knew was coming. Bonnie Raitt frequently sings the great John Prine song, “Angel from Montgomery.” That evening of the call and ever since, Bonnie Raitt has been that angel for our family.

Early this June, my daughter, some friends, and I saw Bonnie Raitt perform for the first time since Joan’s passing over two years earlier. What with COVID, Bonnie hadn’t been touring for several years.

Her set and music turned out to be, as always, outstanding. She became particularly emotional explaining the roots of her new song, “Just Like That,” the story of a man who seeks out the mother of the young man who gave him a new heart — and life. Bonnie’s love and compassion came through deeply throughout the concert. But I already knew that. I knew her caring amounted to much more than mere performance.

Only one of my daughters attended that night, the other had an out-of-town commitment. She missed a great concert. I enjoyed it immensely.

It just wasn’t quite the same.

Paul Pinsky (, a former teacher, currently serves as a senator in the Maryland state legislature.

Source: © Copyright The Baltimore Sun

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Bonnie Raitt, Indigo Girls Appear on ‘No More Pipeline Blues (On this Land Where We Belong)’

on April 20, 2021 No comments
By ANGIE MARTOCCIO Angie Martoccio

“The song and the music video are also like prayer offered in ceremony, asking for strength, justice, and preservation”

— Winona LaDuke


Bonnie Raitt and the Indigo Girls are among the many voices featured on “No More Pipeline Blues (On this Land Where We Belong),” out on Earth Day (April 22nd) via Rock the Cause Records.

The track supports the ongoing fight against Minnesota’s “Line 3” tar sands oil pipeline, which cuts through more than 200 bodies of water, including the Mississippi River. The resistance is heavily led by indigenous women, including activist Winona LaDuke — who has spent the last eight years trying to prevent the construction of Line 3.

In addition to Raitt, the Indigo Girls, and LaDuke, the song also features the first Native American poet laureate, Joy Harjo, as well as Waubanewquay, Day Sisters, Mumu Fresh, Pura Fe, Soni Moreno, and Jennifer Kreisberg. It was produced and composed by Larry Long.

The accompanying video, directed by Keri Pickett, shows indigenous peoples protesting on the front line, holding signs, and confronting the police. Proceeds for the song will be donated to Honor the Earth, a nonprofit founded by LaDuke and the Indigo Girls.

” ‘No More Pipeline Blues’ beautifully illustrates in music, singing, spoken word, and images the threats of a totally unnecessary tar sands pipeline at the end of the age of Big Oil,” LaDuke said in a statement. “But it also illuminates the sacredness of our environment, and yet more destructive, historical impacts to indigenous culture. Still, the song and the music video are also like prayer offered in ceremony, asking for strength, justice and preservation.”

“I’ve been involved with Honor the Earth and their work protecting Native lands and water since the early Nineties,” added Raitt. “With the climate crisis beyond its tipping point, the movement to stop these destructive and unnecessary fossil fuel pipelines is crucial and deserves more attention than it’s getting. We can join the worldwide shift to developing renewables, ensuring the protection of our environment, the creation of thousands of jobs, and lessening the risk and trauma to both Native communities and the whole Great Lakes region. I’m hopeful ‘No More Pipeline Blues (On This Land Where We Belong)’ will bring more awareness about the need to stop Line 3 and capture the attention of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz as well as President Biden, who have the authority to stop construction of the pipeline until ongoing environmental litigation is settled.”

Tell President Biden to #Stopline3

The headwaters of the Mississippi flows for millions downstream. Why would we want to pump 915,000 barrels a day of tar sands oil through her?

We set up a way to send a letter to President Joe Biden (goes to the White House directly) asking him to #StopLine3.

You can share your own story why Biden needs to Stop Line 3 now securely and safely.

We appreciate your support.
Together we will Stop Line 3

Source: © Copyright Rolling Stone and Pine Journal
More info:
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on March 2, 2017 No comments


Tom died last October surrounded by people who loved him. For the last 4 months, Tom’s widow Barbara Williams, Troy Garity, my son with Tom, and I have been working together to create a memorial that honored and celebrated Tom’s 6 decades of commitment to peace, justice and democracy. 

In the course of preparing the memorial, I reread many of his books and speeches, watched films, news footage and interviews of Tom that Troy and Barbara assembled and read letters that friends and colleagues of his were sending in about the impact Tom had on their lives. And I was able to see with even more clarity than when he and I were together what an extraordinary life of dedication he lived and what a lasting impact he had on countless lives. 

From a working class family in Royal Oak, Michigan, a student and alter boy in the arch conservative Father Coughlin’s Temple of the Little Flower, Tom became editor of the prestigious Michigan Daily and, after reporting on the new Free Speech Movement in Berkeley in the early 60’s, the civil rights bus boycotts and sit ins in the South, he stepped out from behind his notepad and became an organizer and builder of movements. He was able to whisper to me the day before he died that seeing people willing to die for their beliefs changed him forever. And it was ‘forever.’ He never stopped trying to make Democracy a reality.

We held the memorial at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Sunday February 19. People came from all over the country who had been in the trenches with Tom, some from the very beginning. There were people who were part of creating the seminal Port Huron Statement on which Tom was the lead writer and editor— the document that laid out in beautiful, even soulful, language an entirely new vision of what a Democratic society would look like. It was a profound departure from the doctrinaire, ideological view of the “old Left” and it brought hope and inspiration to a new generation of young activists who came together as SDS: Students for a Democratic Society. To illustrate the cultural impact that the Port Huron Statement had, we were able to get clips from “Mad Men” and the film, “The Big Lebowski” in which characters talked about the document and how “cool” it was. 

Two of the Chicago 7 defendants, Rennie Davis and John Froines, were at the memorial. 

Troy, Barbara and I had the speakers arranged in chronological order so that one could see the entire sweep of Tom’s life as an organizer/strategist/movement builder/writer/journalist/State Senator. 

Troy, edited a wonderful opening video called “Who the Hell is Tom Hayden?” and then started everything off with an emotional, funny and welcoming speech that really set the perfect tone. 

A beautifully emotional Alfre Woodard read from Tom’s memoir, Ed Begley spoke about Tom’s commitment to the environment and how it changed his life, ending by saying that he named his daughter Hayden in Tom’s honor. 

Bobby Kennedy Jr spoke about Tom’s Irishness and why the Kennedy family asked Tom to be one of the pall bearers at Robert Kennedy’s funeral. Kevin DeLeon, President Pro Tem of the California Senate, talked about what Tom accomplished as a member of the state legislature for 14 years when term limits forced his retirement. Delores Huerta spoke. Bonnie Raitt, a longtime friend and supporter of Tom’s, sang “Change is Gonna Come.” 

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