Bonnie Raitt is among the artists selected to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame this May.
While most of Raitt’s songs may fall outside the realm of blues, there is no doubting her commitment to and love for the music and the blues musicians themselves.
Heavily influenced by and sometimes mentored by older blues veterans when she started out, Raitt not only sang soulfully but played bottleneck guitar in the style of Mississippi Fred McDowell.
McDowell was one of many artists whose cause she championed over the years – others included Sippie Wallace, Charles Brown, and Ruth Brown.
After she began to tour on the strength of her first albums in the 1970s, she often insisted that
blues performers be booked as her opening act, and her manager, Blues Hall of Fame inductee Dick Waterman, also represented many of the top blues acts of the era.
Raitt, whose 1989 album Nick of Time rose to the top of pop charts, has had far more commercial success outside the blues. But the Blues Hall of Fame committee said it was recognizing her for her devotion to the genre and its musicians.
Among her Grammy Awards was one for Best Traditional Blues Recording shared with John Lee Hooker in 1989 for their collaboration on “I’m in the Mood.” Raitt also played or sang on blues albums by B.B. King, A.C. Reed, Sippie Wallace, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Ruth Brown, Charles Brown, Keb’ Mo’ and Joe Louis Walker.
Her contributions to the blues have also included assisting artists in royalty recovery as co-founder of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, helping to fund headstones and memorials, and quietly, sometimes anonymously, donating money to blues singers in need.
Bonnie Raitt’s example is one that ought to inspire many other blues-influenced performers from the worlds of rock and pop music.
The Blues Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be May 5 in Memphis, TN, the evening before the Blues Music Awards.
–Jim O’ Neal