Awards

30 Years of ‘Nick of Time’: How Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Underdog Record’ Swept the Grammys & Saved Her Career

on March 21, 2019 No comments
by Natalie Weiner

Before Nick of Time became perhaps the biggest Cinderella story in Grammy history — as well as the cement to Bonnie Raitt’s now-unshakeable legacy as a singular song interpreter and advocate for the blues tradition, and the soundtrack to so many ‘90s babies’ childhoods — it was a last-ditch effort to salvage the career of a cult-favorite artist who had just hit rock bottom.

“Nobody expected it to sell well,” Raitt says now. “They just said, ‘We’re not going to pay a lot of money for you, so just make a record that you want.’”

The record she wanted, as it turned out, was an understated, beautiful expression of both personal and artistic self-assurance. Nick of Time’s stripped-down but polished sound wasn’t revolutionary to her fans, who’d long appreciated Raitt’s combination of remarkable musical talent and no-nonsense attitude. But to mainstream listeners, her ability to package an impressively wide array of blues, country, R&B and pop songs into one seamless, mostly analog album was a welcome sea change from the heavily produced, homogenized hits of the era.

It was Raitt’s 10th studio album, but her first to crack the Billboard 200’s top 25. Over nearly 20 years, she’d gone from prodigy college dropout to undeniable live performer, whose recorded catalog was filled with uncompromising roots music and major label attempts to channel her obvious gifts into pop success.

And at the very moment when that seemed the least likely, the impossible happened: the right artist made the right album at the right time. A critical darling who had flirted with the musical mainstream for decades made a classic paean to the trials and benefits of aging that was bold and approachable at once. And its biggest hit wasn’t even the one whose music video co-starred a hunky Dennis Quaid and went into heavy rotation on the then-nascent VH1.

The narrative was obvious: The press drooled about the then-39-year-old’s “comeback” from substance abuse and obscurity, and was agog that a woman “of a certain age” — as some outlets put it in an attempt at diplomacy — might reach a wide audience singing about her own life experience.

“It actually didn’t bother me at all,” Raitt, now 69, says with characteristic frankness. “Especially because the title song is about exactly that. A lot of the circumstances besides age came together to bring that album such wide attention, but I’ve never minded talking about my age. Something I’m proud of.”

The Recording Academy didn’t mind either, sending Raitt home with all four Grammys she was nominated for at the 1990 ceremony, including album of the year — which she accepted in stocking feet after breaking a heel during one of her many trips to the stage. The album has since sold over five million copies, and more importantly, revitalized the career of one of America’s most important roots musicians.

Looking back, the album wears its age almost as well as Raitt herself — both, it seems, are timeless.

“I have so many people to come shows with their mothers, or with three generations, saying ‘My mom played this album for me in the car when I was little, and you’re one of the artists that means the most to us,’” says Raitt. “It means so much to me that Nick of Time resonated with so many women, especially. I never expected it to have the response it did.”

*******

“Out of the worst thing came the best thing.”

After failing to get the kind of hits that might have made her seven-figure deal with Warner Bros. seem worthwhile to label execs, Raitt was dropped unceremoniously by the label. She fell into a rough patch during which her self-described “road-dog” lifestyle began to catch up with her. Producer Don Was, still looking for his big break, was going through similar burn out.

But wait, there's more!

International Folk Alliance Kicks Off 30-Year Celebration With Awards Show

on February 15, 2018 No comments

Written By Lynne Margolis


{{svg_quality_icon}}
{{quality-options}}

The most moving moment of the awards show that kicked off the 30th annual Folk Alliance International conference Wednesday night in Kansas City, Missouri, was a 49-year-old concert clip featuring an artist who passed away five years ago.

The artist was Richie Havens. The clip, of course, was from his unplanned festival-opening set at Woodstock — a set that was supposed to last 20 minutes, but wound up running over three hours because the slated bands were traffic-jammed. When he ran out of songs, he improvised, adlibbing on the spot. “Freedom!” he shouted out, again and again. Not as a lyric, as a declaration. Then he spliced in the spiritual “Motherless Child,” and made folk music history.

The clip was part of a video retrospective honoring Havens as the winner of the posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award: Legacy, one of several accolades presented at the International Folk Music Awards. The ceremony also celebrated the organization’s own 30-year history, which began in 1989 when concert presenters Clark and Elaine Weissman gathered 130 people together in Malibu, California in hopes of solidifying and strengthening their musical community. They forged the North American Folk Music & Dance Alliance, which became Folk Alliance International in 2003. Wednesday, executive director Aengus Finnan announced this year’s conference attracted a record 2,700 artists, presenters, managers, producers, DJs, journalists and others to the Westin Crown Center, including 1,000 first-timers.

{{svg_quality_icon}}
{{quality-options}}

The awards have grown, too; for the first time, they were held off-site, in Kansas City’s historic former Vaudeville house, the Folly Theater. Three-time Grammy nominee Ruthie Foster, the night’s emcee, opened the show with a powerful version of her song, “Phenomenal Woman.” Fellow Grammy nominee Guy Davis (son of acting royalty Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis) delivered a particularly rousing rendition of Havens’ song. Performances also came from young Nashville siblings Giri and Uma Peters, who played “How to Help the World” on mandolin and banjo, respectively, and Spirit of Folk Award winner Anaïs Mitchell, who sang her oh-so-topical tune, “Why We Build the Wall.” Originally written in 2006 for Hadestown, a theatrical project that became an album, a tour, and, eventually, an off-Broadway production, the song gained new relevance during the last presidential campaign.

All those songs addressed prominent themes in the folk community. This year’s conference has focused attention on issues of sexual abuse and harassment in addition to always-present themes of protest and activism.

Spirit of Folk Award winner Martyn Joseph invoked his hero, singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson, before noting, “We are a big army and we should be making a helluva noise right now.”

Even the Album of the Year award, one of three member-voted honors, seemed particularly timely: It went to Rhiannon Giddens for Freedom Highway. Austin duo Ordinary Elephant won Artist of the Year, and Nashville singer-songwriter Molly Tuttle won Song of the Year for “You Didn’t Call My Name.” That award was sponsored by American Songwriter.

Molly Tuttle accepts the Song of the Year award. Photo by Jake Jacobson

The Kingston Trio presented Havens’ award. Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Awards also went to Peter, Paul & Mary and Elektra Records. John Oates presented the People’s Voice Award to Bonnie Raitt, who sent a video acceptance noting how important activism has always been to her, and how much it’s needed.

Bonnie Raitt is a 10-time GRAMMY® Award-winning songwriter, blues artist and activist. Bonnie has long been involved with the environmental movement, performing concerts around issues of oil, nuclear power, mining, water, and forest protection since the mid 70’s. Active in environmental advocacy, she was a founding member of MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) and supports efforts to preserve Ancient Forests. Raitt consistently demonstrates her commitment to issues of social justice and human rights, as well as royalty reform and music education. At most concerts, Raitt works with The Guacamole Fund to offer seats to local non-profit organizations whose work focuses on issues of safe and sustainable energy, environmental protection, and social issues.

{{svg_quality_icon}}
{{quality-options}}

The People’s Voice Award is presented to an individual who unabashedly embraces social and political commentary in their creative work and public careers.

Bonnie Raitt Receives 2018 Folk Alliance International People’s Voice Award

Singer, songwriter and musician Bonnie Raitt has earned the Folk Alliance International’s 2018 People’s Voice Award. Presented annually, the award is intended to honor individuals who endeavor to take on social or political activism in conjunction with their artistic careers, as with 2017’s winner Canadian singer, songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn who has highlighted issues like the environment, human rights and politics through his music.

Championing environmental issues since the 1970s, Ms. Raitt has spoken out against the oil and gas industries and is a founding member of MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy), as well as called for the protection of forests and fought for clean water. As an advocate for The Guacamole Fund, Ms. Raitt aids non-profit organizations working to the goals of sustainable energy forms and environmental protections.

Known also for her political activism and her humanitarianism for help for victims of the 2004 southeast Asia tsunami, Ms Raitt has also been a champion to the Little Kids Rock organization that provides free musical instrument to children and helped, together with Dick Waterman, finance memorial headstones for musicians like Fred McDowell, Memphis Minnie, Sam Chatmon and Tommy Johnson.

by World Music Central


“It’s great to see all of these people recognized,” said Foster. “What a community.”

The night ended with a performance by the Staley High School Falcon Chorale and a group sing-along of “Goodnight, Irene,” which, for many attendees, invoked the memory of singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave, a prominent member of the organization who passed away in 2017. As Finnan had noted earlier in the evening while acknowledging his beloved predecessor, Louis Meyers, in a community as strong and tightly knit as this one, the losses hurt. But the commitment continues — and gets passed along as newcomers join the fold.

PROGRAM BOOK

Source: © Copyright American Songwriter
More Info:
Folk Alliance International
Folk Alliance International Conference

But wait, there's more!

Little Kids Rock Honors Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt
Who Likens Cutting Music Education to a ‘Criminal Act’

on October 19, 2017 No comments

by

Little Kids Rock founder David Fish said it best: “The world is a f–ked up place right now,” he noted on stage at New York’s Playstation Theater last night. “But in these days of discord, dissonance and distraction, I’m constantly reminded by a truth that is as old as the human family itself: music can bring people together in ways that virtually nothing else can.”

Honoree Bonnie Raitt speaks onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City. © Kevin Mazur /Getty Images for Little Kids Rock

That is the thesis behind Little Kids Rock and its annual benefit, which aims to provide music education to public schools. This year’s benefit honored longtime supporter Bonnie Raitt, along with Elvis Costello, and the CEO of City Winery and founder of New York’s Knitting Factory, Michael Dorf.

tip: most convenient way to listen while browsing along is to use the popup button of the player.

“Music Changed My Life”
Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017
Honoring Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt
PlayStation Theater, New York, NY
October 18, 2017

Featuring:
Elvis Costello – guitar, vocals
Bonnie Raitt – guitar, vocals
Keb’ Mo’ – guitar, vocals
Bettye LaVette – vocals
Darlene Love – vocals
Paul Shaffer – keyboards

House band:
Will Lee – bass, musical director
Chrissi Poland – vocals
Dennis Collins – vocals
Christine Ohlman – vocals
Chris Anderson – trumpet
Aaron Heick – saxophone
Neal Pawley – trombone
Jeff Kazee – keyboards
Bernie Williams – guitar
Jim Boggia – guitar
Doug Yowell – drums

Various Little Kids musicians appear on guitar, bass, vocals, drums

Non-musical appearances by:
Harry Connick Jr.
Michael McKean
Mike Meyers

 

Setlist:

01 Blackbird – Bettye LaVette
02 Michael McKean introduces Keb’ Mo’
03 We’re A Winner (Curtis Mayfield cover) – Keb’ Mo’
04 Keb’ Mo’ introduces Harry Connick Jr.
05 Harry Connick Jr. introduces Bonnie Raitt
06 Bonnie Raitt’s speech
07 Baby, I Love You (Aretha Frankline cover) – Bonnie Raitt and Keb’ Mo’
08 The Road Is My Middle Name – Bonnie Raitt with various Little Kids: “Yancy” on shared lead vocals, a chorus and a lead guitarist (Alejandro Villarasa)
09 Thing Called Love (John Hiatt cover) – Bonnie Raitt
10 Michael McKean introduces Mike Meyers
11 Mike Meyers introduces Elvis Costello
12 Elvis Costello’s speech
13 Alison – Elvis Costello
14 Elvis Costello comments
15 Forbidden Nights – Elvis Costello solo acoustic
16 Forbidden Nights – Darlene Love with full band
17 Elvis Costello introduces Bonnie Raitt
18 Bonnie Raitt comments
19 Love Has No Pride – Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt
20 Elvis Costello comments
21 (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding? (Nick Lowe cover) – Elvis Costello with various Little Kids on bass, drums, percussion, guitar and vocals
22 All You Need is Love (The Beatles cover) – All
23 People Get Ready (Curtis Mayfield cover) – House band

Length: 1:25:12

“Over the past 15 years, Little Kids Rock teachers have turned this into a national movement,” said Fish of the charity he initially conceptualized in 1996 when he was a teacher frustrated with the nonexistent funding for music programs at his school, leading him to launch an after-school program that taught students how to play guitar. “Since then, Little Kids Rock has been restoring, expanding and innovating music education around the country.”

Honoree Bonnie Raitt speaks onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Honoree Bonnie Raitt speaks onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Keb' Mo' and Bonnie Raitt attend the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Bonnie Raitt performs onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Honoree Bonnie Raitt performs onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Honoree Bonnie Raitt and Keb' Mo' perform onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Honoree Bonnie Raitt performs onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Honoree Bonnie Raitt performs onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Bonnie Raitt performs onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Honoree Bonnie Raitt performs onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Honoree Bonnie Raitt performs onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Bonnie Raitt performs onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Bonnie Raitt and Elvis Costello perform onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Keb' Mo', Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, and Darlene Love perform onstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Honoree Bonnie Raitt attends the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Mike Meyers, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McKean and Darlene Love pose backstage during the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Honorees Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt attend the Little Kids Rock Benefit 2017 at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt attend the 2017 Little Kids Rock Benefit at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and Michael Dorf attend 2017 Little Kids Rock Benefit at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Michael Dorf, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, Darlene Love, Bettye Lavette and Keb' Mo' attend 2017 Little Kids Rock Benefit at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt attend 2017 Little Kids Rock Benefit at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.Bonnie Raitt attends the 2017 Little Kids Rock Benefit at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City.
For Dorf, who was honored for fostering a series of tribute shows that have raised $1.5 million dollars for music education, the cause is an important one. “With Mother Nature and Father Trump causing such havoc in our world, we are constantly putting on benefits to support the environment, health issues and protecting human rights,” said Dorf to Billboard. “What gets lost with all of these on-going topical issues and cut from budgets, are music programs — especially in public education for underserved youth.”

That’s especially true for kids like Amanda Medina, a 10-year-old student at the Equity Project Charter School in the Bronx, who also performed at the benefit as part of her after-school music group the Tep Combos. “Singing is my life, so I’m grateful for this because they’re giving money to buy kid’s instruments,” said Medina, who cited Beyonce as an influence. “I always look forward to rehearsing; tonight is our first performance that’s not in front of our school.”

Throughout the night, various luminaries attested to the importance of both music and its education. Harry Connick Jr., who introduced honoree Bonnie Raitt, said he started taking piano lessons when he was four, noting, “They say music changed my life, but for me that doesn’t go far enough. Music is my life.”

Bonnie Raitt attends the 2017 Little Kids Rock Benefit at PlayStation Theater on October 18, 2017 in New York City. © Taylor Hill /FilmMagic

Raitt expressed similar sentiments. “I came from a musical family and was blessed to grow up in an era when there was school orchestra with 16 percussion players,” she recalled, citing Joan Baez as an early influence. “The guitar allowed me to expressed myself. It was my voice and it helped me build (since) I had a confidence problem and a self esteemed problem. There’s been study after study proving the benefits of music education and exposure to the arts makes all the difference.”

Raitt, who likened the cutting back of music education a “criminal act,” praised the work of Little Kids Rock. “To see from where he started with his wonderful team and all those teachers and all of those kids whose lives have changed. It’s one of the most successful and well-run organizations, with every dollar going to the right place that I know.”

And before launching into a spirited cover of Aretha Franklin‘s 1967 track “Baby I Love You,” Raitt expanded on the theme of the evening: “Here’s to the power of a beautiful ballad to break hearts and heal.”

But wait, there's more!