6 Things To Know About Bonnie Raitt: Her Famous Fans, Legendary Friends & Lack Of Retirement Plan

on March 6, 2023 No comments
by Marah Eakin

A Special Benefit for the GRAMMY Museum’s Music Education Programs

To celebrate her incredible wins at this year’s GRAMMY Awards, including Song Of The Year, Best American Roots Song and Best Americana Performance, the GRAMMY Museum is thrilled to welcome 13-time GRAMMY-winner and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Bonnie Raitt for a special benefit program at the GRAMMY Museum. The program will be moderated by GRAMMY telecast writer and producer David Wild, an Emmy Award and Peabody Award winning writer who worked with Bonnie Raitt going back to his days at Rolling Stone magazine. Proceeds from this event will benefit the music education initiatives of the GRAMMY Museum. 

Bonnie Raitt is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose unique style blends blues, R&B, rock, and pop. After 20 years as a cult favorite, she broke through to the top in the early 90s with her GRAMMY-award-winning albums, Nick of Time and Luck of the Draw, which featured hits, “Something To Talk About” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” among others. The thirteen-time GRAMMY winner was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and Rolling Stone named the slide guitar ace one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and one of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.”

2022 was an incredible year for Raitt with a 75-date headlining U.S. tour; the release of her critically acclaimed 21st album ‘Just Like That…,’ on her independent label, Redwing Records; receiving the Icon Award at this 2022’s Billboard Women In Music Awards and seeing her breakthrough album, ‘Nick of Time’ added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. ‘Just Like That…’ was #1 on six Billboard charts the week of release and was perched at #1 on the Americana Radio Album Chart for ten consecutive weeks. The album’s first single, “Made Up Mind” remained in the top three spots on the Americana Radio Singles Chart for 17 weeks. Raitt will be on tour for most of 2023 with stops in the U.S., Australia, the UK, Ireland, and Canada. View all concert dates here

As known for her lifelong commitment to social activism as she is for her music, Raitt has long been involved with the environmental movement, performing concerts around oil, nuclear power, mining, water, and forest protection since the mid-‘70s. She was a founding member of MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy), which produced the historic concerts, album, and movie NO NUKES, and continues to work on safe energy issues in addition to environmental protection, social justice, and human rights, as well as creator’s rights and music education.

During “A Conversation With Bonnie Raitt” at the GRAMMY Museum, 13-time GRAMMY winner detailed her career trajectory, history of big-name collaborations, and how her win for Song Of The Year at this year’s GRAMMY Awards was “a total surprise.”

For the uninitiated, Bonnie Raitt is just an “unknown blues singer” — albeit one who managed to nab the Song Of The Year award at the 2023 GRAMMYs, plus two other trophies. But to the millions in the know, and the choice few in attendance for a chat with Raitt at the Grammy Museum on March 5, she is a living legend.

Over the course of her decades-long career, Raitt has earned 30 GRAMMY nominations, taking home 13 golden gramophones for tracks like “Nick Of Time,” “Something To Talk About,” and “SRV Shuffle,” as well as albums such as Luck Of The Draw and Longing In The Hearts. Last year, Raitt was awarded the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award, and at this year’s ceremony, she snagged GRAMMYs for Best American Roots Song, Best Americana Performance and the coveted Song Of The Year.

Before she heads out on a tour of the western United States and Australia, Raitt sat down to chat with moderator David Wild for about two hours, musing not only about her “total surprise” about snagging the Song trophy, but also about her experience at the ceremony. It was an illuminating and downright charming experience — as well as an educational one. Here are six things we learned at “A Conversation With Bonnie Raitt.” 

Bonnie Raitt at the GRAMMY Museum – March 5, 2023 © Rebecca Sapp

Taylor Swift Is A Fan —  And A Humble One At That

Raitt recounted being chatted up by Taylor Swift during the GRAMMYs, with Swift telling Raitt backstage that she felt okay losing Song Of The Year to her. Swift’s “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” was in competition, alongside works by Lizzo, Adele and Harry Styles.

Swift also introduced herself to Raitt, whom she’d never met, saying,”Hi, I’m Taylor.” Raitt said she responded, “Ya think?” — which made the audience in the Clive Davis Theater crack up.

She’s A Master Collaborator, With More On The Way

“No one commands more respect” amongst their musical peers than Bonnie Raitt, said Wild, who’s worked on the GRAMMY Awards as a writer since 2001. Whenever the show’s team has struggled to think of who could best pay tribute to someone like John Prine, Ray Charles, or Christine McVie, “the answer is always Bonnie Raitt.”

That’s probably why, as Raitt noted, she’s recorded duets with more than 100 different musical acts — from Bryan Adams to B.B. King. Raitt added that she’d still love to work with Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, and H.E.R., and that fans can anticipate new collaborative work coming from work she’s done with Brandi Carlile and Sheryl Crow

Raitt added that she’s gotten really into Unknown Mortal Orchestra lately, who she heard about through Bruce Hornsby.

She’s Learned From And Befriended Musical Masters

Raitt was effusive about her love for King, among others, saying that one of the great joys of her career has been sitting at the feet of blues greats like Sippie Wallace and Son House. The singer/songwriter expressed her gratitude for being able to help get so many of these once-forgotten masters both the attention and the pay they deserved. She cited her work with the Rhythm And Blues Foundation as being of great importance to her personally, saying that it’s vital that the roots of blues and jazz are taught in schools today.

Wild also got Raitt to open up about her friendship with legendary gospel-soul singer Mavis Staples, who toured with Raitt just last year. Calling Staples, “all the preacher I’ll ever need,” Raitt said she thinks she and Staples bonded over being the daughters of famous fathers. “It’s a great honor of my life being friends with her,” Raitt said of her “mutual sister.”

Later, Raitt also waxed rhapsodic about another famous daughter, Natalie Cole, who she said she’d been thinking about all day.

Raitt’s Got An Independent Spirit And An Independent Label

A good portion of Wild and Raitt’s chat was devoted to the star’s career trajectory. The two detailed how, as a 21-year-old college student, Raitt signed to Warner Bros. only after they promised her complete creative control and nowadays has her own indie label, Redwing.

Raitt said it was only with the help of a”team of mighty women” that she was able to go independent. She cited lessons from friends like Prine, Staples, and Jackson Browne, from whom she learned going it alone could be done successfully. 

Bonnie Raitt Almost Missed Out On “I Can’t Make You Love Me”

Raitt also talked a bit about her previous GRAMMY triumphs, including her run of nominations and wins around 1989’s Nick Of Time. Her popular single, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” was originally written for Ricky Skaggs, who intended to make it a lively bluegrass record. 

Raitt added that she thinks the song “Nick Of Time” struck a chord because she opened up about what it means to be getting older.

She’s Not Planning On Retiring (Or Dying) Any Time Soon

After joking that COVID lockdown felt like “house arrest” and “hibernation,” Raitt said that her recent tours have been a blessing. “It feels like I was under the earth without any sunshine,” Raitt says, reassuring attendees that she’s “never retiring.” She said that while she’s lost eight friends in the past three or four weeks, including the great David Lindley, the 73-year-old is optimistic that she can “be here and celebrate for another couple of decades.”

Raitt capped off the event doing what she loves best, teaming with long-time bassist Hutch Hutchinson for an intimate four-song set that included “Angel From Montgomery,” “Shadow Of Doubt,” “Nick Of Time,” and the GRAMMY-winning “Just Like That.” Raitt ended the evening by thanking the Recording Academy for inviting her out, joking, “I can’t believe I get to do this for a living.”

Source: © Copyright The Grammy Awards

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Bonnie Raitt Talks with David Remnick

on February 3, 2023 No comments
with David Remnick
After fifty years in music, the singer-songwriter is nominated for four Grammy Awards.

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You couldn’t write a history of American music without a solid chapter on Bonnie Raitt. From her roots as a blues guitarist, she’s created a gorgeous melange of rock, R. & B., blues, folk, and country—helping to establish a new category now known as Americana.

But she’s far from resting on her laurels; her latest album, “Just Like That . . . ,” is nominated for four Grammy Awards this year, including Song of the Year—a category in which her competition includes Beyoncé and Adele, stars a generation younger than Raitt.

She talks with David Remnick about her early career in the blues clubs of Boston; the relationship between older Black artists and the nineteen-sixties generation of younger white afficionados; and the state of the genre today.

“The way that blues and R. & B. and soul music [are] interwoven with so many different styles now . . . the cross pollination of influences that streaming has made possible—it means that blues is always at the root of whatever funky music is out at the time,” she says.

Raitt also reflects on how finding sobriety in her forties changed her music. “I think a lot of us are busy putting on a big persona—proving ourselves in the world—for the first two decades of our careers,” she says. “I became more who I really am at forty-one than I was at thirty-one.”

The New Yorker Radio Hour is a co-production of WNYC Studios and The New Yorker.

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Source: © Copyright The New Yorker and WNYC Studios

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Marin’s Bonnie Raitt heads to the Grammys, recognized as a songwriter at last
Long renowned as an interpreter, she has quietly built a catalog of her own. Up for song of the year on Sunday, she talked about her nominated track, “Just Like That,” and a lifetime onstage.

on January 31, 2023 No comments
by Jon Pareles @JonPareles
Bonnie Raitt has won 10 Grammys since 1979. She’s up for four awards on Sunday, including song of the year. © Peter Fisher /The New York Times

Bonnie Raitt is no stranger to the Grammys, which will be awarded Sunday in Los Angeles. She has won 10 of them since 1979, and she has also been a frequent presenter and performer on the show, befitting a musician who has long been the model of a sustainable, self-guided rock career.

Raitt has never depended on hit singles or spectacle; instead, she relies on the quiet power of a voice that draws on blues, country, soul and rock to speak plainly about complicated emotions. Modestly but tenaciously, Raitt has cycled through decades of recording albums and touring, selling out 3,000-seat theaters and playing regularly at festivals. Musicians like Adele and Bon Iver have drawn on her repertoire, and younger musicians, particularly women, have cited her example as a bandleader and producer.

“I don’t write all the time,” Raitt said. “So it’s almost like having a whole body, spiritual, emotional, physical feeling when you get shaken like that.” © Peter Fisher /The New York Times

Raitt, 73, has long been renowned as a finder and interpreter of songs, but most of her albums have also included a few of her own. Her four Grammy nominations this year include her first ones for her songwriting. The title track of her 2022 album, “Just Like That…,” has been nominated as song of the year and best American roots song. It’s a quiet, folky track about a heart transplant; a mother whose son was killed in an accident meets the recipient, and she gets to hear her child’s heart beating again.

“Just Like That” and “Down the Hall,” a song narrated by a prisoner serving a life sentence and working in the prison hospice, show the influence of John Prine, a master of folky, laconic character studies, who died of COVID in 2020. He wrote “Angel From Montgomery,” a song Raitt always sings in concert.

In a video interview from her living room in Marin, Raitt wore a rainbow-hued outfit and spoke about songwriting, autonomy and awards-show serendipity. The following are edited excerpts from the conversation.

You have a lot of Grammy Awards already, but “Just Like That” is your first nomination as a songwriter. It seems a little belated for someone who has written dozens of songs.

A I was never expecting this song of the year nomination. But I was very proud of the song, especially since it was so inspired by John Prine, and we lost him. I put my heart and soul into every record, and I never know which ones are going to resonate. But I can tell people are really moved, looking out there in the audience.

Tell me about writing the song. You’ve said that it began with fingerpicking guitar.

A I usually write my ballads on the keyboard. Probably because I took lessons, it just seems to be freer, more flexible. The guitar style that I have is really homegrown, primitive folk guitar chords and those old blues licks.

This particular time, I wanted to write, but not about my personal life, because I really had covered that. I didn’t have anything else to say. So I was looking for a story.

And completely out of the blue, I saw this news program. They followed this woman with a film crew to the guy’s house who received her son’s heart. There was a lump in my throat — it was very emotional. And then when he asked her to sit down next to him and asked if she’d like to put her head on his chest and listen to his heart — I can’t even tell the story to this day without choking up, because it was so moving to me.


I wrote it for awhile without the music. I worked on the lyrics for both “Down the Hall” and this one. It was like there was a higher purpose for both of those songs. It was a really different process for me to have those lines that are crucial in each song just appear in my head.

I don’t write all the time. So it’s almost like having a whole body, spiritual, emotional, physical feeling when you get shaken like that. And the music — after the vaccines were available, I decided to make the record six months early, in the summer, and tour again. That put the pressure on to actually finish the song. So I just sat and played my acoustic guitar. And at that point, we had just lost John, and I just had him in my heart. I just started fingerpicking, and I had the lyrics in front of me, and the song poured through me without any thinking about it.

You’ve been an example for a lot of younger performers as a woman who is indisputably the bandleader.

A Maria Muldaur told me that years ago. She decided that she could actually be a solo act after watching me with my band in the studio in Woodstock, making “Give It Up.” And in the last 10 years of Americana events, I meet all these other women like Brandi Carlile, and they’ll tell me that they were growing up on my music and what an influence I’ve been.

But it’s hard for me to think about that because I know my foibles and my failings. I still hold myself up to a standard I probably can’t live up to. But I’m really grateful when people say those kind things about me.

It’s a very challenging position to be in when you’re very young. But I’ve been my own boss since I was 20. I walked into Warner Bros. and said, “You can’t tell me what to wear, when to put my work out, who to work with and what to record. But I’ll work my ass off if you put out my records.” And they went for it. Now, I can’t even imagine somebody telling me what to do.


And I could not live with somebody overriding my musical taste. I always picked someone that was not going to produce me and decide the arrangements, but work with me as a partner in the studio. So sometimes, when I needed to tell somebody that they just weren’t cutting it, I would use my producer partner to go in and say something instead of me. As a live bandleader, I have sometimes been on thin ice, when I’ve tried to find the words to explain something that I wanted when I couldn’t play it myself.

The tricky part is that I know what I want. I know what doesn’t work. I know what direction I like. I can say, “Play something more like this.” But it’s how to say that in a way that doesn’t deflate someone’s joy or their ability to feel.

At your concerts, it seems that you’re totally relaxed and casual, but you’re onstage in front of thousands of people. Do you think about pacing, timing, theatricality?

A Somehow I just learned to put a show together. There’s nothing like performing live. It’s just something I was born to do. And when I put together a show, I leave room for some wild cards. It’s a joy every night — to know that you have the aces on each of those instruments, and that we’ve rehearsed enough where we can have some fun with it. And I think the audiences are not there to see a jukebox show. They’re going with me wherever I want to go. I’m more comfortable onstage than any other place in my life. I wish I was as comfortable offstage as I am onstage.

“I’ve been my own boss since I was 20,” Raitt said.
© Peter Fisher /The New York Times

It seems awards shows and festivals are rare chances for a lot of performers to meet.

A I think all of us are like a kid in a candy store backstage. My favorite story about the Grammys was going through the metal detector at the Staples Center, at the afternoon ceremony. I was in the line between two guys in Slipknot, and the guy behind me is like in a Hannibal Lecter kind of a mask, and he goes, “I really dig your music!” I wouldn’t have expected Slipknot guys to know me. You know, maybe a “My mom loves you” kind of thing, but he was clearly a fan.

And I just never expected the number of people that come up and tell each other that. I got to tell Dave Grohl what a fan I am of the Foo Fighters, and he was so surprised on the red carpet. Pharrell Williams, when he was in N.E.R.D., he grabbed me as I was walking back to my seat at the Grammys, and he said, “Any time you want to do something together …”

“Nick of Time,” which was your title song for the 1989 LP that won album of the year, was about the fact of mortality, and now so are “Down the Hall” and “Just Like That.”

A Yeah, and I dedicated this record to friends that I lost in just two years. It’s just been an unbearable amount of loss. Suicides, drug overdoses, cancer, COVID. It’s unbelievable, what’s going on with the climate and with Ukraine and the Somali famine, which isn’t even getting any coverage, and the migrant situation on the border, and Syrian refugees. I mean, I’ve never been as discouraged and heartbroken as I have been. I soldier on.

People say, “Well, how come you don’t do political music?” Most of it is just so insufferable. And I try to be really careful about not preaching my politics onstage because I know there’s a lot of people out there that may not agree with me, and they’re there to hear the music. So we have a table out there in the hall, and we tithe a dollar of every ticket.

I do have a couple of songs that are political, like “Hell to Pay” and “The Comin’ Round Is Going Through” — I couldn’t wait anymore. But the politics between people, and love relationships, are just as thorny and important to lift up and write from interesting points of view.

Source: © Copyright Marin Independent Journal and The New York Times

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