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A Call from Bonnie Raitt: A story of love, loss and inspiration | GUEST COMMENTARY

on June 23, 2022 No comments
By Paul G. Pinsky

My wife Joan deeply loved Bonnie Raitt, as a musician and as a role model. Joan always saw Bonnie as a wonderfully strong, outspoken and progressive, independent woman.

Growing up, I admired Bonnie Raitt as well, for her social justice advocacy and activism. My early musical passions, on the other hand, leaned more male heavy, to musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne.

But after Joan and I met, fell in love and married, I found myself coming to share her intense passion for Bonnie Raitt’s music. In our household, I had the chief responsibility for keeping tabs on upcoming concerts, and I made sure to buy tickets whenever Bonnie came through our Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Over 35 years, we must have seen Bonnie Raitt in person at least 10 times, at venues that ranged from the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland and Wolf Trap in Virginia to Constitution Hall and the Kennedy Center in the District.

Our two daughters, now in their early and mid-30s, went through a musical evolution as well. They went from captive audience, forced to listen to Bonnie ‘s music on long car rides, to big fans.

Throughout all these years, Joan’s career in education was getting ever more demanding. She rose to a top administrative position in Special Education for one of the nation’s 20 largest public school systems, with responsibility over a mega-million dollar budget. In such a large system, not surprisingly, Joan ran into some bitter “office politics,” and she could take efforts to put roadblocks in her way, personally. Bonnie’s song, “I Will Not Be Broken,” would become Joan’s personal anthem.

We would end up able, by and large, to handle all the ups and downs of career and family life, at least until we faced the challenge of a gut-punch we had never expected: Joan’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in March 2019. At the time, Joan had just about reached her 63rd birthday.

Music — from Bonnie Raitt and anyone else — would quickly fade from our focus. Appointments with oncologists and chemotherapy treatments would soon fill our schedules, followed by proton therapy from our home outside Washington to trips to Baltimore’s University of Maryland Medical Center. Eventually, our treatment path led to the “Whipple procedure,” a surgery that aims to double the chances for a better five-year survival rate.

The doctors warned us beforehand that even initially successful surgery can go south. In Joan’s case, unfortunately, it did. Which brings me back to Bonnie Raitt.

What could I do for Joan in those final days? How could I lift her spirits when her life was ebbing away? I thought about Bonnie Raitt and, with some wonderful help, I tracked down email addresses and contacts for people close to her. Her personal assistant would soon prove invaluable. I had one question: “Would Bonnie be willing to call a lifelong supporter to lift her spirits in a most difficult time?”

The answer would be yes.

We had a few predictable fits and starts in setting the contact up, but finally, early in February 2020, we had everything all ready. About an hour before the scheduled call, I gave Joan some warning. I told her she’d be receiving a call from the West Coast. Was our friend Sharon, Joan asked, going to be calling? No, I replied, “Bonnie.”

“Bonnie who?” Joan asked.

“Bonnie Raitt,” I said.

Joan went into total shock. For just a moment, she could forget all about her oppressive prognosis.

At the scheduled time, Bonnie called. She and I spoke briefly. I told her about Joan and how much Bonnie’s music had always meant to her. I explained that I had been working for economic and social justice as a Maryland state legislator since the 1980s. Her response: “Keep on fighting.”

I then went upstairs and gave Joan the phone. Bonnie would be friendly, affirming and inquisitive, particularly about Joan’s lifelong commitment to children with disabilities. After almost 15 minutes, the call ended, leaving Joan in semi-shock, still trying to process that she had just spoken to the Bonnie Raitt.

Joan passed away six weeks later. I can only hope she had sweet dreams after the call strong enough to banish — if only for a few nights — the end she knew was coming. Bonnie Raitt frequently sings the great John Prine song, “Angel from Montgomery.” That evening of the call and ever since, Bonnie Raitt has been that angel for our family.

Early this June, my daughter, some friends, and I saw Bonnie Raitt perform for the first time since Joan’s passing over two years earlier. What with COVID, Bonnie hadn’t been touring for several years.

Her set and music turned out to be, as always, outstanding. She became particularly emotional explaining the roots of her new song, “Just Like That,” the story of a man who seeks out the mother of the young man who gave him a new heart — and life. Bonnie’s love and compassion came through deeply throughout the concert. But I already knew that. I knew her caring amounted to much more than mere performance.

Only one of my daughters attended that night, the other had an out-of-town commitment. She missed a great concert. I enjoyed it immensely.

It just wasn’t quite the same.

Paul Pinsky (paul.pinsky@senate.state.md.us), a former teacher, currently serves as a senator in the Maryland state legislature.


Source: © Copyright The Baltimore Sun

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Bonnie Raitt gives The Bros. Landreth something to talk about
Winnipeg brothers open tour in Hamilton on June 3

on May 19, 2022 No comments
By Graham Rockingham
The Bros. Landreth, Joey, left, and Dave, have been given a boost by multiple Grammy winning singer Bonnie Raitt.

Dave and Joey Landreth were still in their early 20s when they met Bonnie Raitt backstage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 2014. They had just released their debut album under the name The Bros. Landreth and were all but unknown outside of Winnipeg, but they were given the honour of playing on the same stage as the headliner, much earlier in the day, but, still, it was their idol, Bonnie Raitt.

Raitt had heard the local buzz about The Bros. Landreth and came out early to catch their act. She chatted with them backstage, giving them some over-the-top encouragement, telling them their songcraft was in the same league as legendary acts like Little Feat and The Band.

They exchanged emails, starting a long-term mentorship that would result this year in Raitt recording a cover of an early Landreth Bros. tune called “Made Up Mind.” The song became the lead single off Raitt’s new album “Just Like That,” which debuted last month at the top of the Billboard Charts, with the multiple Grammy-winning singer performing it on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

The timing couldn’t have been better for The Bros. Landreth, who are kicking off a national tour in Hamilton June at Mills Hardware to promote their third album “Come Morning.”

“We’re still wrapping our head around it,” Joey, 34, says in an interview from Winnipeg. “It’s been a tremendously good year for us. It is such an influx of energy to have that kind of validation from someone you admire so deeply. It’s not something we ever imagined happening.”

“And then to hear (Raitt’s) recording, it’s pretty true to our own version,” adds Joey, who handles guitar and most of the lead vocals in the band. “She didn’t change it much. That is tremendous validation.”

© Shervin Lainez

The brothers first heard about Raitt working on their song from the Nashville grapevine after noted session guitarist Kenny Greenberg walked into a music store and asked a guitar tech for pointers on how to emulate Joey’s guitar sound.

“It was all rumours,” says Dave, 36, the band’s bassist. “Then they reached out just before Christmas and gave us the best Christmas present we could imagine. It was a letter from management with a bunch of notes from Bonnie, saying ‘Hey, guys, we’re very pleased to let you know this song made the record and it’s the first single. We really hope you like it.’”

Bros. Landreth Facebook message for Bonnie.

What a fun weekend it’s been. We’re truly overwhelmed with gratitude. Thanks again and a heartfelt congratulations to Bonnie Raitt and her incredible band: James “Hutch” Hutchinson Kenny Greenberg Glenn Patscha #RickyFataar and Ryan Freeland too. Feeling on top of the world over here folks!

Album cover art by Roberta Landreth.

“It’s a funny experience because the song now feels like her song,” Dave adds. “We feel excited like a parent would … kind of like ‘I may have brought you into the world, but we’re proud that you’re doing your own thing now.’”

The Bros. Landreth new album, released May 13 on their own Birthday Cake Records label, still contains plenty of the roots/Americana sound that drew Raitt to the band.

But it also sports a much more sophisticated sound, sometimes reminiscent of the 70s soft-rock of Hall and Oates, especially on the lead-off single “Stay.”

Listen to Stay now at https://birthdaycake.ffm.to/stay.oyd


Laden with sweet melodies and smooth harmonies, it’s a sound that was once disparaged as “yacht rock.” Recent trends, however, have given new meaning to the term. “Yacht rock” is now cool. Millennials have re-discovered the blue-eyed soul of the 70s.

“Dude, we love Hall and Oates,” says Dave, who shares songwriting duties with his younger brother. “I’m a massive fan. A lot of people have made that reference, but it was not at all deliberate. We were not trying to channel things. We were just playing in the sandbox and making stuff until it sounded right. When your influences run so deep, they just have a way of presenting themselves. It was just a by-product of immersing ourselves in all these different sounds.”

One of the reasons the brothers chose Hamilton as the place to launch their tour is because of the many fond memories they have of the city.

Their debut album “Let It Lie” (which contains the original version of “Made Up Mind”) earned roots and traditional album of the year at the 2015 Junos in Hamilton. At the same ceremony, Dave’s wife Roberta, a graphic artist, also won for best album art of the year.

“Hamilton has always been really good to us,” Joey says. “It’s very Winnipeggy, a blue-collar town of hard-working people. Both places don’t necessarily have the best reputations, but they’re rich with culture, rich with arts. Hamilton has always been a special spot and the crowds are killer.”

grahamrockingham@gmail.com


Source: © Copyright The Hamilton Spectator

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Bonnie Raitt’s bandmate says they’re all ready to get onstage again, as tour comes to Syracuse

on April 10, 2022 No comments
By Louise Broach | Contributing writer

Last Friday, James “Hutch” Hutchinson let his exuberance about getting back on stage with Bonnie Raitt overflow when he posted on Facebook: “If you’re up tonight at 11:30 or so, check us out on Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

Afterward, Hutchinson, who is Raitt’s longtime bassist and a storied sideman in the music industry for the past four decades, posted the link to Rolling Stone’s review of “Made up Mind,” Raitt’s new single. They called it “a soulful groove.”

It was the television premiere of the song in anticipation of the April 22 release of “Just Like That,” Raitt’s first album in six years; it will be released on Red Wing Records.

This week, she and Hutchinson, along with drummer Ricky Fataar, guitarist Duke Levine and keyboard and backup vocalist Glenn Patscha, embarked on a new tour. The second stop is Syracuse’s Landmark Theatre April 13. NRBQ will open the show.

This has been a big spring for Raitt, 72, already. She received the Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2022 and with music icon Joni Mitchell, introduced Brandi Carlile at the ceremonies April 3. A few weeks before, Raitt was honored with Billboard’s Icon Award at the magazine’s Women in Music event. She and her band played live after performing only a handful of times before audiences for the past year and a half.

No stranger to the stage in a music form now referred to as Americana or roots, Raitt has received 10 Grammys. She is named No. 50 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and No. 89 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Getting back into touring is something that everyone associated with Raitt can’t wait for, Hutchinson indicated. A resident of Haiku-Pauwela, Maui, Hawaii, and Los Angeles, Hutchinson has done several benefit shows for food pantries and other charities during the Covid-19 pandemic, mostly in Hawaii.

The last time, before the pandemic hit, that he played a normal show was March 7, 2020 when he did an impromptu gig at Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, Calif. with his friend Roger McNamee and his band the Doobie Decimal System.

The story of how Hutchinson, 69, became Raitt’s bass player is as classic as some of the rock and roll titans he’s performed with for the past four decades.

“The Rolling Stones told me that Bonnie’s bass player was leaving. They said to call her,” Hutchinson recalled.

He’d opened for the Stones the previous year while with the Neville Brothers and struck up friendships with Ron Wood and then Stones keyboardist Ian McLagan.

A startled Raitt didn’t even know her band member was leaving, but she knew Hutchinson and his reputation. That was 35+ years ago — Hutchinson has been with her ever since.

Hutchinson is originally from outside Boston. He has played on more than 1,500 albums for so many musicians that listing them all would make a story itself. Some, besides the Stones and the Neville Brothers include Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, Joe Cocker, Little Feat, Etta James, Arlo Guthrie, Ziggy Marley, B.B. King, Sheryl Crow, the Pegi Young Band, Marc Cohn and Neil Diamond.

Hutchinson is a staple on stage and on record with his wide range of musical associates. He considers Raitt one of his closest friends and musical soulmates, is in the credits of her past 18 albums, including “Just Like That.”

“We just have similar musical tastes that are really broad,” Hutchinson said. “There are not many artists that have that musical range. Bonnie and I are simpatico. I have been so blessed to work with her.”

Hutchinson said he kept busy during the pandemic, playing music every day and walking on the beach with his wife, Leslie, and their dog.

He was busy right up to the lockdown, recording the theme for the Netflix show, Money Heist, and tracking some blues records at Ultratone Studio in Studio City, Calif. He also did some work for Playing for Change, a multimedia music project, featuring musicians and singers from across the globe, co-founded in 2002 by American Grammy award-winning music producer/engineer and award-winning film director Mark Johnson and film producer/philanthropist Whitney Kroenke. A video of The Band’s “The Weight” that the group filmed in 2019 featuring Ringo Starr, Robbie Robertson, Larkin Poe and other artists, took off during the pandemic, Hutchinson said. He played bass on the track.

But mostly, he said, he spent the past year and a half looking forward to hitting the road with Raitt again.

There’s nothing like a full-scale tour that will hit a couple of dozen cities in about half a year’s time, he noted. He’s also looking ahead to September, when Marc Cohn will open a few shows out West. Other opening acts along the way will include Lucinda Williams and Mavis Staples.


Source: © Copyright Syracuse.com

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