When Bonnie Raitt received the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for “Just Like That” in February, her band’s longtime bass player, James “Hutch” Hutchinson, was watching on TV in Los Angeles. Raitt had earlier won Grammys for Best American Roots Song for “Just Like That” and Best Americana Performance for “Made Up Mind,” which meant her band all shared in the award.
“We were all shocked,” said Hutchinson, who has played with Raitt for 40 years and has made Maui his home for 20 years. “We were up for four awards, three of them in the Americana category. We won the first two and then the third one, Americana Album of the Year, Brandi Carlile won and she got up and said, ‘I can’t believe I won this. I thought Bonnie was going to sweep again.’
“We were thrilled to win two out of three,” Hutchinson continued. “The performance award is a band award. Then, of course, the icing on the cake was when she won for Song of the Year, which is the award she really wanted because she’s the sole composer of the tune. So it was big, a big deal.”
Heading to the Maui Arts and Cultural Center for a concert on Friday, Raitt has now won 13 Grammys, including some for her multimillion-selling albums, “Nick of Time” and “Luck of the Draw.”
The title song of Raitt’s latest album, “Just Like That” is an emotionally wrenching song that has touched so many people. She based it on a news story about a mother who donated her deceased son’s organs. It was the first song written by a solo composer to win the award since Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.”
“‘Just Like That’ is about a woman who loses a son and organ donation, and the trials and tribulations, and the redemption that sometimes comes along with it,” said Hutchinson. “Many a night on stage, I’ve had an emotional reaction to it. She was broken up, as she is every time she sings anything that means something to her.”
The song was especially heartbreaking for Hutchinson as he lost his sister, Ann Hutchinson Tower, the week of the awards, and “she ended up saving two women. Her kidneys went to two younger, fit women in their 50s. Organ donation is important, but I didn’t think I’d be living that song the week we won Song of the Year for it. It was one of the more bizarre, surreal moments of my entire life. There’s been extreme highs and extreme lows.”
In a tough couple of months, he also lost a handful of musician friends, including David Lindley and David Crosby. Hutchinson had been getting ready to head out on tour with Crosby, and had previously recorded with him, and Crosby with Graham Nash, and with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
“I’ve known David for 50 years,” he explained. “I met him when I was 19. He was always in my life, a sort of a mentor and friend and a bandmate many times. The rehearsals in December sounded great. I’d never seen him happier. He was ready to go out and do a final tour. I just loved working with him. My proudest musical moments are anything with David Crosby. I miss him so much.”
Player’s Pick Podcast #63 – James “Hutch” Hutchinson – December 2020
Talk with Hutchinson and he will regale you with 50 years of encounters with a myriad array of famous musicians, from recording with the Rolling Stones in Ireland to rock ‘n’ roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis. His remarkable list of recording credits includes Ringo Starr, B.B. King, Elton John, Brian Wilson, Al Green, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, Ziggy Marley, Jackson Browne, the Doobie Brothers, Joe Cocker, Roy Orbison, Garth Brooks and Neil Diamond.
What was it like playing with the Beatles’ legendary drummer?
“Ringo is great. He’s funny, and he’s great to be around,” Hutchinson said. “He’s just a fantastic musician, and he loves music and he loves people. I worked with Ringo a number of times. I love people who are easy and fun to work with.”
Proclaimed “The Groove King” by Bass Musician magazine, Hutchinson can comfortably fit into any genre.
His local collaborations include recording with other musicians on Maui like Grammy winner Peter Kater, Pat Simmons Jr. and Gail Swanson. He toured the Mainland with Hapa and was also a regular at Shep Gordon’s Wailea benefit shows. Teaming with John Cruz, he played on a star-studded “Playing for Change” video of “The Weight,” and was filmed in Haiku with Pat Simmons in a marvelous updating of Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train.”
Back on the road with the “Just Like That Tour 2023,” Hutchinson said the Maui show will include “at least four songs” from the latest album.
“The set list changes,” he said. “We know a lot of tunes and you can only play so many per night, and there’s some we have to play. People expect ‘Something to Talk About’ and ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me.’ People want to hear those songs.”
The Maui leg of Raitt’s Just Like That Tour 2023 takes place on Friday at the MACC’s A&B Amphitheater. John Cruz will open. The show begins at 7 p.m. and gates open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $60, $80, $100 and $140 Gold Circle, plus applicable fees, at MauiArts.org.