Few people were as dumbfounded as Bonnie Raitt when she won the prize for song of the year at the 65th Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 5. The Bay Area-based singer beat out pop royalty like Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Adele, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé and a handful of other nominees in the category.
“Oh my gosh,” said a visibly stunned Raitt, 73, after accepting her award from first lady Jill Biden. “I’m so surprised. I don’t know what to say.”
It’s particularly shocking as Raitt is better known as an interpreter of other people’s songs. But her award-winning composition “Just Like That,” about an organ donation, was solely written by Raitt as a tribute in the style of the late songwriter John Prine, who died from complications of COVID-19 in 2020.
“I don’t write a lot of songs, but I’m so proud that you appreciate this one and what this means for me and the rest of the songwriters who I would not be up here (without) tonight,” Raitt said.
She won two other Grammys — for best Americana performance (“Made Up Mind”) and best American roots song (“Just Like That”).
Few viewers were likely familiar with the track before Sunday, especially compared to the other ubiquitous song of the year nominees, which included Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well (10 Minute Version),” Harry Styles’ “As It Was,” Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit,” Adele’s “Easy on Me,” Kendrick Lamar’s “The Heart Part 5” and Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul,” among others.
Naturally, Raitt’s victory inspired plenty of hot takes and memes on social media, especially from people unfamiliar with her extensive back catalog. And to be fair, stacked against the competition it was a classic Grammy blunder, revealing the conservative leanings of the older Grammy voters.
For many viewers, it felt like a flashback to the 2008 Grammys when Herbie Hancock won album of the year for his middling tribute album, “River: The Joni Letters,” over Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.”
Here's why you should never hire kids without more experienced editors. Bonnie Raitt, one of the greatest, most talented, most versatile and most consistent artist of the last 50 years, is dubbed unknown. Jesus wept. pic.twitter.com/SMIKBgDSSI— Andrew Downie (@adowniebrazil) February 6, 2023
Raitt, who also offered a tenuous version of the late Christine McVie’s “Songbird” with Sheryl Crow and Mick Fleetwood during the evening’s in memoriam segment, still seemed to relish the win.
“I’m still reeling,” she said in a blog post on Monday. “So grateful to everyone who helped bring me to last night … I thank you all for helping me get our music out to the world. And to all the friends, family and fans who lift me up with their steady love and support. And lastly, to John Prine and all the songwriters who keep inspiring and giving us the joy of sharing their music. I’m just bowled over.”
A representative said Raitt was traveling on Monday, Feb. 6, and not available for comment.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, whose hits include “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “Something to Talk About” and “Love Sneakin’ Up on You,” was a late bloomer. Raitt cut her first album in 1971 but didn’t crack the Billboard Top 10 until 18 years later with her 1989 multiplatinum release, “Nick of Time,” and two subsequent best-sellers, “Luck of the Draw” and “Longing in Their Hearts,” which together sold more than 14 million copies and made Raitt the best-selling artist on Capitol Records.
“Just Like That” was taken from her 21st album of the same name, released last year through her own Redwing Records label. It was recorded in Sausalito with a band that included bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, drummer Ricky Fataar, keyboardist and backing vocalist Glenn Patscha, and guitarist Kenny Greenberg.
Raitt, a 13-time Grammy winner, received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the 64th annual Grammy Awards last year.
I’m so happy for @BonnieRaitt. She deserves every single thing we can give her. From the time I opened for her on a tour in the early 1980’s up to now, she has been unfailingly kind and generous to me. I adore her and we’re all lucky to have her. #BonnieRaitt— rosanne cash (@rosannecash)