Reviews

Top 10 Bonnie Raitt Songs

on April 8, 2021 No comments
Bob Gersztyn

Bonnie Lynn Raitt was born on November 8, 1949 in Burbank, California. Her parents were both in the entertainment industry.  Her father, John Raitt was a headline singer in Broadway musicals like Carousel and Oklahoma, and her mother Marge Goddard was a successful pianist/singer. She was raised in a Quaker religious atmosphere and her parents were socially and politically conscientious.

When Bonnie was eight years old she received a guitar for Christmas which began her passionate interest in music. After high school, she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where she played in local coffee houses until she dropped out of school and joined the East Coast blues and folk music scene. She developed her act as she played alongside everyone from (Big Boy) Arthur Crudup to Sippie Wallace. She connected with artists from her own generation like Jackson Browne and Little Feat and continued to be politically involved by performing at high-profile charity events.

Her early recordings beginning with her self-titled album in 1971 were made up of mainly “traditional blues.” That seminal period of development in the early 1970s saw her evolve artistically into both a phenomenal vocalist and proficient slide guitarist. It was on Sweet Forgiveness, her sixth album in 1977 that she recorded Del Shannon’s “Runaway” which became her first hit single and launched her career into the mainstream. Raitt is one of the world’s most talented female singer/ songwriter/guitarists and has released seventeen studio albums and won a total of ten “Grammy Awards.” In the year 2000 she was inducted into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

Here are Blues Rock Review’s top 10 Bonnie Raitt songs.

10.“Walking Blues”

“Walking Blues” appeared on Bonnie Raitt’s first eponymous record album released in 1971. It’s an excellent example of the style that she began with and who better to model yourself after as a blues singer that the seminal blues guitarist Robert Johnson. The song is his composition but it was popularized by Sun House and Muddy Waters.

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9. “I’m In the Mood”

“I’m In the Mood” is both a collaboration and another artist’s album. John Lee Hooker is a legendary blues singer/guitarist that recorded an album called The Healer in 1989 that contained a series of collaborations with everyone from Carlos Santana and Charlie Musselwhite to Robert Cray and Bonnie Raitt. The album was produced by Roy Rogers in San Francisco and was like frosting on the cake from all the recent success with Nick of Time and even won a Grammy for Hooker.

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8. “The Thing Called Love”

“Thing Called Love” came from the Nick of Time album released in 1989. The album won multiple “Grammy Awards” including “Best Traditional Blues Recording” and “Best Female Pop and Rock” vocal performance. The song itself is a John Hiatt composition that Bonnie slightly changed the lyrics on as well as performing some amazing slide guitar playing halfway through.

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7. “Angel From Montgomery”

Bonnie Raitt is a songwriter but at the same time she can take another artist’s composition and transform it into her own as any truly great performer can. “Angel from Montgomery” came from 1974’s release, Streetlights and was written by folk singer John Prine, who was inspired by Hank Williams. The song has been recorded by dozens of performers over the decades and was written from the perspective of a middle aged housewife that feels old and wants to escape her mundane everyday life.

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6. “Don’t It Make You Want To Dance”

“Don’t It Make You Want to Dance” was from the soundtrack of the 1980 film with John Travolta that transformed the country from the “Disco Scene” into the Country music Scene overnight when “Urban Cowboy” hit the screens. It was originally written by Rusty Weir and it became Raitt’s only hit on country music charts.

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5. “Runaway”

“Runaway” is from the 1977 Sweet Forgiveness album and was originally a #1 “Top 40” radio hit in 1961 for Del Shannon. Shannon co-wrote the song with keyboardist Max Crook but Raitt completely changed the arrangement and performed a funkier R&B version of the classic. It became her first hit single and climbed the US singles chart to the #57 position.

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4. “Nick of Time”

Nick of Time is Bonnie Raitt’s tenth studio album released in 1989 as well as its title song and it became her commercial breakthrough. The album was produced by Detroit, Michigan record producer Don Was and won three “Grammy Awards” including “Album of the Year.” The other two “Grammys” were for both Best “Female Pop and Rock” cocals. The song was penned by Raitt and the lyrics are heartfelt middle age female reflections about everything from the ability to give birth much longer to observing both the transformation and degeneration of age in herself and her parents.

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3. “Something to Talk About”

“Something to Talk About” opens with a great slide guitar riff and was the biggest radio hit from 1991’s Luck of the Draw. It was the follow up to Nick of Time and was equally successful by earning three “Grammy Awards.” The song was written by Canadian singer/songwriter Shirley Eikhard and became one of Raitt’s signature songs as it explores the subject of “love.”

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2. “I Can’t Make You Love Me”

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” is another gem from Luck of the Draw and is considered by many as one of the most beautiful songs that Bonnie recorded. Her gorgeous sultry voice is accompanied by pianist extraordinaire Bruce Hornsby as she delivers a heartfelt torch song. Country music artists and songwriters Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin wrote the song that became Raitt’s most successful single.

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1. “Have a Heart”

“Have a Heart” was another hit from the multi-platinum “Grammy Award” winning 1989 album  Nick of Time. One of the ironies of the success of the album had to do with the fact that Bonnie had hit rock bottom with her career when she went into the studio with an equally frustrated Don Was. The result was a masterpiece born out of pain and suffering that is reflected in the creative and emotional energy that was distilled into each cut.

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Album ReCue – Bonnie Raitt: 1971

on March 1, 2021 No comments
by Laura Fedele

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

Leading up to WFUV’s 1971 Throwback Thursday on March 25 — dedicated to albums celebrating their 50th anniversary this year — all month on “Album ReCue” we’ll be taking a deep dive into some of the ’71 releases that mean the most to our weekday FUV hosts. Above, an archive of Alisa Ali‘s conversation with Corny O’Connell about his selection, Bonnie Raitt‘s self-titled 1971 debut album, and below, Laura Fedele‘s overview of that release. 

Back before the 10 Grammy awards and the guitar-god accolades, Bonnie Raitt was a California kid from a musical family who couldn’t wait to grow up and join the activist Greenwich Village folk scene. Once she got there, after her college years in Cambridge, her natural singing style and skill with the slide guitar quickly separated her from the pack, and she scored a major label deal before she was 21.

She chose her signature instrument over the folky acoustic because of the sustain, Raitt says: “the electric guitar, for me, has the raunch and the beauty that more openly reflects the range of emotions I want to get when I’m singing and playing.” Plus, it made it easy to sit in with a wide variety of players and styles: “It doesn’t matter whether you know all the chords if you know your way around with a slide.”

That easy way with a jam is already in full form on her debut album, Bonnie Raitt, recorded in live sessions at an empty Minnesota summer camp. A collection of eclectic old favorites and a couple of her own tunes, each song starts out in a new direction — a rolling blues, a lilting ballad — then each one builds in its own way to a rollicking peak. You can feel the camaraderie of the band members as they move in and out of the music, like party guests gliding through the kitchen, with Raitt at the center, driving it all forward.

Stephen Stills’s “Bluebird” kicks it off, in country-blues style, Raitt’s voice gently soaring over a harmonic vocal chorus. Her own “Thank You” is the first we hear of a future career of sweet and sultry ballads, and her “Finest Lovin’ Man” gets a honky-tonk vibe from blues legend Junior Wells on the harp, pushing the rhythm forward with every breath.

Raitt’s career has embraced the sounds of rock, Americana and R&B over the years, but her love for the classics never wavers. WFUV morning host Corny O’Connell says, “Bonnie Raitt really got to me on an emotional level on her debut album through her truly authentic interpretation of the blues. She’s renowned for her slide guitar, but it was her laid-back, unaffected singing on standards like ‘Since I Fell for You’ that sealed the deal.”

Her compadres at the camp included a few who’d become longtime collaborators (like Freebo on bass and A.C. Reed on sax), plus Raitt chose two classic Sippie Wallace songs for the album (“Women Be Wise” and “Mighty Tight Woman,” both driven here by John Beach’s New Orleans-style piano), creating a bond that led to them recording and touring together through the ’70s and ’80s.

But the longest relationship in Raitt’s career started even further back than her debut: The first woman with a signature Fender guitar line, her customized Stratocaster (“Brownie”) has been with her for every gig since 1969.

This “Album ReCue” series is part of our 50-year look back at the albums of 1971, including Traffic, Isaac Hayes, and Carly Simon. We’ve also taken a look at Bonnie Raitt’s 1989 Nick of Time album, and at her career as an FUV Essential artist.

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WFUV’s Album ReCue: Bonnie Raitt’s Bonnie Raitt


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Bonnie Raitt: Nick of Time

on September 28, 2020 No comments
by Kara Manning

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Album ReCue, a part of FUV’s EQFM initiative, takes an on-air and online look back at influential releases by women that altered our perspective not only of the artist, but her invaluable impact on music history.
Above, listen to a conversation with Alisa Ali and Sarah Wardrop about Bonnie Raitt‘s 1989 album, Nick of Time, and below, Kara Manning’s overview.

Bonnie Raitt, one of the greatest blues guitarists to ever shimmy a slide down a fretboard, was nine albums into her career, battered by a biased music industry, and on the cusp of 40 when she released the album that would change her life: 1989’s Nick of Time.
What a prophetic title and title track for a musician who proved that the best of a career was just beginning at middle age.
Better yet, her reboot was accompanied by the perfect plot twist — Raitt won the 1990 Grammy award for Album of the Year for Nick of Time (one of four that she won that night).

The restrictive dictates and prosaic rules of the music industry in the ’70s and ’80s hurt musicians like Raitt; female artists who didn’t fill a traditional niche were routinely discarded.
Despite excellent albums like 1972’s Give It Up and 1975’s Home Plate, Raitt’s brand of gritty blues and R&B, punched with a pop-friendly afterglow, didn’t settle comfortably into the usual Top 40 or FM rock radio mix, the latter usually less than welcoming to women anyway.

Like Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield, Raitt became an intuitive interpreter of others’ songs too, plaiting them with husky vulnerability and toughness. But even though she had a minor hit with a 1977 cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” it wasn’t good enough to vault Raitt into a viable place; she was an outlier.

Brusquely dropped by Warner Brothers Records in 1983, her hard-drinking habits escalated as she navigated a breakup and scrambled to keep touring as a musician.
But following a skiing accident and tired of living the blues in all the wrong ways, Raitt got sober in 1987, a decision that not only saved her career, but her life — not hyperbole in the least. “Some people don’t get out,” she told Rolling Stone in 1990. “They die. You know, the Richard Manuels, the Paul Butterfields.
There’s a whole bunch of musicians who had their drug and alcohol problems encouraged by the lack of validation for their music.”

There was a brief dalliance with Prince’s Paisley Park label and two scuttled recordings with Prince (tucked away in a vault, but “I Need a Man” has emerged).
Providence and Hal Willner’s Disney project, Stay Awake, led Raitt to producer Don Was and vice versa; Was was dealing with his own career crisis (“In 1986, I hit rock bottom,” he told Billboard last year, recalling Nick of Time‘s 30th anniversary). The pair began recording demos, labels be damned. There were over a dozen rejections before Capitol finally signed her; those early demos evolved into what became the multiplatinum Nick of Time, recorded with about 30 of the best session musicians that Raitt and Was knew, plus some starry names, like Herbie Hancock, Graham Nash and David Crosby.

Led by Raitt’s own “Nick of Time,” a wistful confession of hitting existential midlife crossroads (“Life gets mighty precious/When there’s less of it to waste”), the album is a canny distillation of her strengths: that wondrously expressive voice and virtuoso slide guitar genius.
Two Bonnie Hayes compositions, “Love Letter” and “Have a Heart,” are good examples of Raitt’s way of transforming someone else’s songwriting. In the former, Raitt opts for a smoky saunter, all brio and hope. But in the latter, there’s a wholly different entreaty, a plaintive stew of dub grooves and defiance. The song’s lilting opening salvo, “Hey, shut up! Don’t lie to me,” is a perfect entry to Raitt’s point of view.

Raitt is conversational in tone when she sings, never pushing a line; she opts for ease and an unfettered honesty.
The songs she writes or chooses often tell tales of exchanges gone awry, or of women working toward a better path in love or life. And in truth, Bonnie’s recordings are often intense dialogues with her guitar: she wields her Fender Stratocaster like a bulwark, a Greek chorus, or a trustworthy friend. Riding the bumpy path of her own deliciously bluesy “The Road’s My Middle Name,” there’s a steely resolve to Raitt’s phrasing and playing, never surrender.

She improbably became a fixture on VH-1 and MTV too, thanks to the sexy shuffle of John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love,” and that flirtatious video showdown between Bonnie’s ballsy slide glissades (and dimples) and Dennis Quaid’s bad boy grin. It might not be the most original video, but it made a massive impact. That exposure to a younger generation, especially teenage girls with a guitar in their sights, gave Raitt the kind of iconic stature that she relishes but still seems mystified by, even 30 years and seven albums down the line from Nick of Time.

“I have so many people who come to 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,’” Raitt told Billboard in 2019.  “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.”

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WFUV’s EQFM Album ReCue:Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time

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