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Best Bonnie Raitt Songs: 20 Bluesy Classics
Whether it’s an original or a song she has adopted and made her own, Bonnie Raitt’s ability to realize a lush soundscape out of words is extraordinary.

on November 8, 2022 No comments
By Shamira Ibrahim

Bonnie Raitt’s lengthy career has been defined by her deft ability to occupy the liminal spaces of her life and art. Her vocals and slide guitar are forever unbound between prior iterations of herself and where she currently chooses to exist in music. She’s deftly lived in and around blues, folk, country, rock, and pop in various phases of her lengthy career. Whether it’s a Bonnie Raitt original or a song she has adopted and made her own, her ability to realize a lush soundscape out of words is extraordinary. It should come as no surprise, as a result, that her songs have been covered by some of the world’s best artists – from Boyz II Men to Adele – in the way that she has done in kind.

Listen to the best Bonnie Raitt songs on Apple Music and Spotify.

Raitt grew up in a musical household, but began to take music seriously in college in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her plan when she arrived at school, as an African Studies major, was to travel to Tanzania, where President Julius Nyerere “was creating a government based on democracy and socialism. “I wanted to help undo the damage that Western colonialism had done to native cultures around the world,” she told Oprah.com.

While she was at school, however, she met the legendary blues promoter Dick Waterman. Before long, she took a leave of absence from school to go on tour with The Rolling Stones at the age of 20 – and the rest was history. A remarkable performer and incredible instrumentalist, it was her never-ending versatility that launched her career in the ’70s and ’80s before she achieved mainstream stardom in the ’90s and, eventually, a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Providing a template for the female musical interlocutors of the modern crossover era, Bonnie Raitt’s vast discography makes it difficult to distill to a list of her best songs. Nevertheless, below is a starting point of some of the more foundational tracks in her legendary journey. Lock in while Bonnie gives you something talk about.

The Early R&B Covers

(I Know, You’ve Been in Love Too Long, Let Me In)

The earliest phases of Bonnie Raitt’s career were punctuated by standout covers of R&B and Motown songs. Her second studio album, Give It Up, was highlighted by a reinterpretation of Barbara George’s 1961 R&B hit “I Know”, adding a rich new layer of instrumentation to the infectious melody with her band’s judicious use of conga, cowbell, and vibraphone in addition to her signature slide guitar to provide percussive and melodic depth to the cover. Raitt’s next album, Takin’ My Time, contains versions of Martha and The Vandellas’ “You’ve Been In Love Too Long” and Yvonne Baker’s “Let Me In.”

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“Let Me In” sees Raitt applying a classic blues revival sound to the popular ditty, replete with rich brass performance. With “You’ve Been In Love Too Long,” she temporarily steps into the sound of a classic Motown ballad, managing the delicate dance of honoring the original sounds without sounding like a pastiche act. She would continue to do this throughout her career, injecting her unique vocal inflections and tonal reconfigurations onto the works of everyone from Bob Dylan to Aretha Franklin.

The Early Commercial Favorites

(Runaway, Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance, Too Long at The Fair)

As Bonnie Raitt built a name for herself touring with her blues and roots-inspired sound, she dropped albums that slowly expanded her palette and spoke directly to her activist predispositions (No Nukes: The Muse Concerts for a Non-Nuclear Future). The slow burn finally paid off with a minor hit on her sixth album, Sweet Forgiveness, when she applied her bluesy vocals to Del Shannon’s vintage hit “Runaway.”

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Later, Raitt made an appearance on the soundtrack for the motion picture Urban Cowboy, with a booming pop-country gem in “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance.” On “Too Long At The Fair,” Raitt offers a perfect melange of guitar and vocal arrangement, paired with beautifully melancholy couplets: “I never knew what laughin’ was/ ’Til you walked out the door/Won’t you come and take me home/I’ve been too long at the fair/And Lord, I just can’t stand it anymore.”

The Breakthrough Hits

(I’m in the Mood, Nick of Time, Thing Called Love)

Bonnie Raitt’s mainstream breakthrough came with her tenth album, Nick of Time. The record went multiplatinum and garnered her Grammy Awards for Album of The Year, Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Her vocals – matured into an adult contemporary style – shine through on the title track. She drew from a pop-country sound, meanwhile, for her booming single “Thing Called Love.” Her fourth Grammy was courtesy of a collaboration with blues singer-songwriter John Lee Hooker – a duet remake of his sensuous best-selling record, “I’m in the Mood.” Husky and unvarnished, the refrain transports listeners into smoky rooms and illicit plans.

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Bonnie Raitt, Country Superstar

(Not the Only One, I Can’t Make You Love Me, Love Sneakin’ Up On You, Something To Talk About)

It was Bonnie Raitt’s 11th album, Luck of the Draw, that made her a household name. The single “Something to Talk About” was an infectiously sly pop ballad anchored by Raitt’s trademark guitar stylings, adorned with brassy lyrics about the capricious nature of the rumor mill. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” followed suit, establishing her as a force in pop music heartbreak ballads. Between these two singles, Raitt transitioned from being the queen of covers to the one being covered. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” has been covered by artists from UK songstress Adele to R&B powerhouse Tank. “Not The Only One,” an amorous ballad reminiscent of long drives down country roads, is the perfect blend between adult contemporary pop and blues guitar. It’s a perfect reflection of how Raitt has evolved her sound through the years.

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“Love Sneakin ‘ Up On You” highlights her capabilities as a songwriter, producer, vocalist, and guitarist. It details the tender nuances of yearning with turns of phrase such as “Fever turns to cold, cold sweat/Thinkin’ about things we ain’t done yet.” The lyrics are an apropos parallel to Raitt’s career – one anticipatory eye on the horizon while burning a consistent flame in the present. Through these twin efforts, Bonnie Raitt has persevered in the music business for decades, creating classics that sound contemporary and redefining the way we assess the boundaries of genres.

Think we’ve missed one of the best Bonnie Raitt songs? Let us know in the comments section below.

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5 Deep Cuts From Bonnie Raitt You Should Be Listening To

on September 7, 2022 No comments
by Alex Hopper

There’s something indescribable about Bonnie Raitt’s music. Whether it’s the stellar line-up of guest musicians in her recording sessions, or her own unparalleled playing and singing—whatever the x factor is, you can feel it from the second you queue up a Raitt song.

While many may know her top hits—”I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “Something To Talk About” and “Nick of Time” for example. There is a whole other side of Raitt’s musicality waiting to be discovered in some of her lesser-known songs.

Below, we’re going through just 5 of a long list of deep cuts from Bonnie Raitt you should add to your playlist sooner rather than later.

1. “Rainy Day Man” (From Streetlights, 1974)

Streetlights saw Raitt put her spin on a number of hits originally recorded by her contemporaries – John Prine, Joni Mitchell, and more. Raitt takes on James Taylor for the second track on the album, “Rainy Day Man.” Raitt gives the song new life with fuller production and a more rock feel.

It does you no good to pretend, child / You’ve made a hole much too big to mend / And it looks like you lose again, my friend / So go on home and look up your rainy day man, she sings.

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2. “Louise” (From Sweet Forgiveness, 1977)

Though this track was penned by Paul Siebel, “Louise” has been popularized over the years through a number of cover versions—among which is Raitt’s version on her 1977 album, Sweet Forgiveness.

In the lyrics, Raitt tells the story of a woman who is used up and laughed at by those around her. It’s only after her death that they start to appreciate her: They’d all put her down / Below their kind/ Still some cried when she died / That afternoon. With only an acoustic guitar backing Raitt up, it leaves room for her stunning vocals.

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3. “Under the Falling Sky” (From Give It Up, 1972)

Raitt ventures into folk rock with “Under the Falling Sky.” Written and originally performed by Jackson Browne for his self-titled album, Raitt trades in the funky synthesizer Browne uses in his version and replaces it with an acoustic guitar and a lively backing band.

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4. “Any Day Woman” (From Bonnie Raitt, 1971)

Another Paul Siebel-written track, “Any Day Woman” is a slower number among the repertoire of steady rock n’ roll staples on her self-titled album. Recorded when she was just 21 years old, it proves that Raitt’s top-tier vocals and smart arrangements have been there from the start.

She sings, Love’s so hard to take when you have to fake everything in return / You just preserve her when you serve her a little tenderness.

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5. “That Song About the Midway” (From Streetlights, 1974)

Raitt took on the Joni Mitchell classic, “That Song About the Midway” for her Streetlights album. The song originally appeared on JONI MITCHELL – LIVE RADIO BROADCASTS, released in 1966. While Mitchell’s version is languid, Raitt picks up the tempo a bit for hers, highlighting Mitchell’s expert lyricism while still making the track her own.

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Source: © Copyright American Songwriter

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How does Bonnie Raitt ease the pain in fraught times? By singing songs and watching animal videos

on July 28, 2022 No comments
By Jon Bream

The pain in Bonnie Raitt‘s voice was palpable over the phone. Not the I-Can’t-Make-You-Love-Me agony, but the life-as-we-know-it-is-getting-so-hard suffering.

The reversal of Roe v. Wade for women’s rights, the war in Ukraine, voting rights restrictions, the murder of George Floyd, climate change and the surge in gun violence, among other things, have rankled the longtime activist for progressive causes.

Raitt speaks out in interviews, on social media and at countless benefit concerts, but she doesn’t jump on a soapbox at her own shows.

“I’m very cognizant that people are there to hear a concert and not to be preached or convinced of one position or the other,” said the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, who returns to her beloved Minnesota on Friday at the Ledge Amphitheater in Waite Park.

“I try to mention at the end of the show: ‘Don’t be discouraged and I won’t be. We’ll help each other stay active,’ ” continued Raitt, a child of the ’60s who was raised as a pacifist Quaker.

In these fraught times, the singer-guitarist has found a special, unexpected way to chill out: watching videos of animals, like pandas sneezing or cockatoos dancing.

“The ones that get me the most are the unlikely pairings of friendships of animals,” she said, citing a morning-news report about the Funny Farm Rescue & Sanctuary in New Jersey, where animals roam free and bond. “By the end of it, my oxytocin level was up to the level of what Grateful Dead fans must feel like at the end of the show.”

She giggled, like a giddy Deadhead.

Stretching on new album

Raitt returned to the road this past spring to promote “Just Like That,” her 18th studio album since her 1971 eponymous debut was recorded in a barn on Lake Minnetonka. The new project is her most daring work, tapping new sounds and new forms of songwriting after all these years.

Waitin’ For You To Blow” showcases her in a jazz jaunt as she discusses the challenges of recovery.

“That was the biggest stretch for me,” said Raitt, who has been in recovery for 34 years. “I told the band I have this idea for a stutter funk rhythm track with this kind of jazzy Les McCann/Eddie Harris chords with this kind of sardonic Randy Newman/Mose Allison lyric.

“It’s probably the most satisfying, scary jump I’ve made musically.”

Recovery is one of the themes of the album — along with grace, redemption and mortality.

“Those are the four horsemen of the apocalypse,” Raitt said.

“Livin’ for the Ones,” a Stonesian rocker, doesn’t have a new sound, but it talks about living life to the fullest. It was inspired in part by her brother Steve Raitt, a longtime Twin Cities sound engineer/producer who died of a brain tumor in 2009.

“I’m going to live for the life he didn’t get to live. That’s how I got through his death,” she said this month from her home in Northern California.

She talked about Steve not veering from his macrobiotic diet for seven years and outliving the Mayo Clinic’s prognosis by six years. “When he went blind and couldn’t walk the last few months of his life and was still fighting and thought he was going to recover — I’m breaking up talking about it.”

She paused to regain her composure.

“And I said, ‘I’m never going to complain again every day I can open my eyes and stand up and walk.’ “

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Never a prolific songwriter, Raitt also tried a different kind of writing this time — storytelling based on a real-life incident, a style she’d always admired in the works of Bob Dylan, John Prine and Jackson Browne. She composed two tunes based on news stories.

“Down the Hall” is a tale of redemption about a convicted murderer who works as a prison hospice aide. Raitt discovered the details in a New York Times piece by Suleika Jaouad.

The album’s title song, “Just Like That,” was drawn from a true story about an organ transplant connecting two families struck by tragedies.

Healing with ‘Angel’

Released in April on Raitt’s own Redwing label, “Just Like That” was No. 1 on the Americana charts for several weeks. Maybe that’s proof that music is healing in times of trouble.

“We have to keep turning our face to the sun and finding a way to bring joy to each other and ourselves,” said the feisty redhead with a distinctive streak of white hair. “I’ve got a big job.”

She heals herself and her audience every time she sings her signature songs in concert.

Before she utters the first words of the gut-wrenching “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” she takes “a spiritual deep breath and I just surrender to the emotions of the song.”

She’s been on both sides of the situation depicted in Mike Reid’s tortuous lament — no longer loving someone and hearing that message herself.

“In one case, they begged me to still do the family Christmas. Auch! It was really brutal. I sing it for anybody that’s gone through that. And that’s probably everyone in the hall.”

When it comes to Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” Raitt gets choked up these days because they duetted twice shortly before he died of COVID-19 in 2020.

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“Now it’s all I can do to not break down when I’m singing,” she said. “I think of him the entire time I’m singing and I’m honoring him this time.

“In years past, I’ve sung it especially for my mom [pianist Marge Goddard], and I’ve been dedicating it the last couple of tours to all the women who don’t have the choice to not get married or can’t leave a marriage, can’t have an education, can’t drive a car, can’t wear a short skirt. I think about all those women around in the world trapped in situations they can’t get out of.

“In my mom’s case, she never got the credit for the incredible contribution she made to my dad’s career. My mom’s generation sacrificed to raise the kids. I made a decision not to saddle someone else to support me.”

At 72, Raitt shows no signs of slowing down. Her father, Broadway star John Raitt, performed until he died at age 88. Tony Bennett, despite dementia, was singing at 95 and remembering the words, she pointed out.

Suddenly Raitt shifted into a frail voice of an elderly woman.

“I’ll be making music till I drop,” she creaked.

Then, returning to her regular voice, she was full of her usual unstoppable spunk: “I’m going to come out at the end with white hair — and a red streak.”

She laughed.


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Source: © Copyright StarTribune

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