Many activists from the 1960s and ’70s grew up never trusting anyone over 30. Not Bonnie Raitt.
Raitt, 66, one of just a handful of artists to make Rolling Stone’s list of top 100 singers and its top 100 guitarists of all time, grew up listening to her parents. She emulated her late father, musical theatre legend John Raitt.
Bonnie Raitt will perform Saturday at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio in what will be a return engagement in the desert in more ways than one. She has given memorable performances with her long-time core band at the McCallum Theatre and The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino. But she grew up coming to the desert.
“Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, from like 1958 to 1964, we would camp out in Blythe and out in the Mojave Desert, before it was off limits,” Raitt said from her home in Marin County. “My dad and my mom went to the University of Redlands and their sorority and fraternity brothers and sisters had kids and we all had campers and 1943 Army surplus Jeeps.
We towed the Jeeps behind the campers and we would camp out for like a week. We’d go Jeeping, we called it, through old river beds and exploring the mines. So, I spent a lot of my childhood really enjoying the beauty of those deserts.”
Her father performed in regional stock theatre every summer, so Bonnie spent many summers in camps back in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Those experiences informed her love of the environment, but she took that a step further than most kids who grew up paddling canoes and hiking in the woods. She was a founding member of Musicians United for Safe Energy and an integral part of the No Nukes group. She’s been involved with groups like the Abalone Alliance, Alliance for Survival and Reverb, a non-profit environmental organization that she supported with tours in 2005 and 2006.
But she also learned that from her elders.
“A lot of my political activism was from my folks and my camp directors being Quaker,” she said. “There was a lot of emphasis on people from different lands all getting along, learning about different cultures, protecting the environment and working for peace and justice. That was really put into me as a young kid.
“My parents became Quakers right after the second world war. As kids, they were very active in the ban-the-bomb rallies and the civil rights marches. We raised money for refugees from war-torn areas. Stopping the oil drilling and protection of the redwoods was something friends of my parents were very much involved with. So, by the time I got into high school and the Vietnam War was raging (along with) the Watts riots, it was very natural for me, especially in college, to be part of those demonstrations.”
Raitt won’t use her concert appearances as a soapbox for her political views, unless it’s at a benefit for a specific cause. She recognizes that many of her fans have different political leanings, so she usually only talks politics when introducing a song off her latest album, “Dig in Deep,” called “Comin’ Around Is Going Through.”But wait, there's more!