Fine at 50: Bonnie Raitt’s “Takin’ My Time”

on August 19, 2023 No comments
By Joe Vincenza

There are so many people in the music business who never ever get the attention they deserve (and too many who get a lot more attention than they should, but that is another story). Bonnie Raitt is at the top of the list of those who should be more highly regarded than they are. Bonnie has won 13 Grammies, and been nominated 30 times, so it’s not like she’s gone completely ignored. Still, if you ask people to name one of her songs most would be hard pressed to come up with a title, or they would default to one of her most radio friendly successes, her cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” (which is indeed awesome to be sure). Or, if they have some savvy on her career “Angel from Montgomery” might be their very appropriate response. Or they might even mention the song that won her a Grammy in 2023 — “Just Like That,” which she wrote as well as performed.


But before all of this, 50 years ago, Bonnie released her third studio album “Takin’ My Time” in the fall of 1973. The 10-song effort was well received by fans and critics, reaching No. 87 on the Billboard Top LP chart that year. As gifted a songwriter as Bonnie is, the choice of material for “Takin’ My Time” was all covers. It turned out to be quite an eclectic mix of songs, influences and styles, ranging from Calypso, to blues, to ballads, to a jaunty version of “Let Me In” a tune recorded in 1961 by The Sensations.

All the songs work, but by the time you get to track 10, you’re not really sure where you’ve been, or where Bonnie was going with all this. Being eclectic is double edged — it shows a wealth of influences, but can leave the listener a bit windblown some 40 minutes later. But, don’t worry about that — this record lasts! If there were one thing that I would change, it’s that we don’t get to hear nearly enough of Bonnie playing guitar, she’s there, but rarely do these particular songs lend the space needed for her to demonstrate her chops. It was a choice she made, so be it. Bonnie has always insisted on complete create control over her work, another reason she garners so much admiration and respect from her fellow musicians.

See, that’s the thing about Bonnie — being honest and true in what you do, it lasts. She could put this record out now (or redo the songs with more contemporary structure) and it would sound perfectly in place.

The first track “You’ve Been in Love Too Long” is an up-tempo funky start to the set, and it’s a genre Bonnie handles just fine. That’s followed by the sweet ballad “I Gave My Love a Candle,” which she presents with equal expertise (Bonnie knows ballads!). The aforementioned “Let Me In” comes next, and it’s sprinkled with Creole seasoning giving it a fun Nola flavor. The rest of the tracks are all equally fine, mixing in some blues, some mid-tempo pop, and even a calypso-flavored song. Mose Allison, Randy Newman, Jackson Browne all get writing credits on these songs, so you know the material is good.


Speaking of Jackson Browne, he has done many many benefit concerts for schools throughout the years. I happened to attend one in 1995, benefiting a special needs school in Arizona. The location for the concert was in the middle of the desert in a natural amphitheater. The lineup featured Jackson of course, Shawn Colvin, and Bonnie Raitt, among many. It was so great to see her live, she was just as real and honest as her music, and I’m happy to have been there (even though it was Arizona, and the desert, and summertime).

There really aren’t any bad Bonnie Raitt records. If you’re around for 50 years, some of your work is bound to be better, some not so much. “Takin’ My Time” definitely stands the test of time, and it’s one of the better, even half a century later.

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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.”


“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.”


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.


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.


“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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How Bonnie Raitt Fine Tuned Her Style With ‘Give It Up’

on September 10, 2022 No comments
by Allison Rapp
Bonnie on the telephone – Give It Up 1972 © Michael Dobo

Stardom was never on Bonnie Raitt‘s radar. From the beginning of her career, she was mostly concerned with the craft of live performance.

“I personally don’t have any ambition to be any big hot stuff,” she told Sing Out! in 1972. “I like to play. I could play second act, or play at Jack’s [a bar and music venue] in Cambridge for the rest of my life. And that’s what I’m trying to do now, to build a base on live appearances rather than on records.”

She took to music from a young age, with parents who encouraged her interests. Raitt’s mother was a pianist and her father was a musical-theater actor who appeared in productions of Oklahoma! and The Pajama Game. Raitt first began to hone her skills on guitar while still a teenager at summer camp, then as a young adult on the campus of Harvard, where she majored in social relations and African studies.

In Cambridge, she met Dick Waterman, a leader of the then-growing blues revival movement. Not long after, she decided to leave school and move with him to Philadelphia. She began performing there locally, as well as in Cambridge and New York City. “It was an opportunity that young white girls just don’t get,” she recalled in 2002, “and as it turns out, an opportunity that changed everything.”

A 1970 at the Gaslight Cafe found Raitt opening for John Hammond Jr., son of the legendary Columbia Records executive. The New York City venue was once a haven for up-and-coming folk artists like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, but was then turning its ear toward blues. Word began to spread about the exceptionally talented young guitarist, whose slide work in particular stood out from others.

Raitt eventually accepted a record deal with Warner Bros., and she released her first self-titled album in 1971. A collection of mostly covers with a few originals, the LP sold only modestly but was generally well received by critics.

At that point, Raitt described the notion of becoming a star based on albums alone as “superfluous.” Still, when it came time to record Give It Up, she was grateful for the “complete control” Warner Bros. allowed her. “They just give me the money and I give them the tapes,” she said. “And I do respect Warners for the fact that they’d take an unknown artist like me and give me unlimited artist control.”

Listen to Bonnie Raitt Perform ‘Love Has No Pride’


This second studio effort was recorded in Woodstock, N.Y., where Albert Grossman’s Bearsville Studios was just beginning to become a retreat of sorts for musicians looking to escape the bustle of big city studios. Raitt was already accustomed to this — she recorded her debut album at an empty summer camp just outside Minneapolis — but this time, she had new musicians to work with including Paul Butterfield, T.J. Tindall and Chris Parker, among others. (Many were from around the Woodstock area.)

She also had a new producer in the up-and-coming Michael Cuscana, then mainly known for his jazz-radio programs and writing. He’d heard mention of Raitt through Waterman, but knew nothing else when he first heard Raitt perform in Philadelphia. “I didn’t even know she played guitar or sang,” he told Joe Maita in 2019. Cuscana said he was “knocked out” by her performance.

Michael Cuscuna, Bonnie, Eric Kaz, John Payne, Freebo – Give It Up 1972 © Michael Dobo

Like Bonnie RaittGive It Up arrived in September 1972 dotted with mostly covers. They included songs written by elder blues women Raitt admired — Barbara George’s “I Know” and Sippie Wallace/Jack Viertel’s “You Got to Know How” – as well as the then-recently released “Under the Falling Sky” by Jackson Browne. The heavy presence of covers didn’t bother Raitt.

“I’m not a songwriter,” she insisted in 1976, “and besides, that I didn’t write a song like ‘Love Has No Pride’ myself, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel like I wrote it myself. There is no difference whether I spread it using other people’s words or my own songs.”

Raitt recognized that a new era of interest in blues music was taking shape, but that the Black musicians who pioneered it might still get left behind. “Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, they have no faith in white kids,” Raitt told Sing Out. “They know that even if white kids happen to like blues this year, they would still rather see Johnny Winter. They know that Janis Joplin was making a certain amount of money, and that Big Mama Thornton was making maybe a fifth of it – and that’s why Junior Wells does James Brown songs.

“White people have been fickle before,” Raitt added, “and the next year blues might not be their thing: That’s why a lot of blues singers don’t work anymore, why all those clubs closed down.”

Listen to Bonnie Raitt Perform ‘You Got to Know How’


Through the ’60s and into the ’70s, countless rock ‘n’ roll bands like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and the Allman Brothers Band had often benefitted greatly from inspiration taken from older blues musicians and albums. Raitt wanted to bring these artists — especially if they were still living — closer to the forefront.

“It’s also true that people would rather see me or John Hammond do blues than Fred McDowell. It’s ridiculous,” she added. “Eventually, it would be real nice to put some of the older blues people on the bill with me and try to educate people. I think it’s really important.”

That’s exactly what Raitt did once Give It Up began attracting more attention. Sales were again moderate, but this became her first charting album at No. 138 and it garnered widespread critical praise. She brought along Buddy Guy and Junior Wells as her support act in 1975. Two years later, John Lee Hooker opened her shows. She also subsequently befriended Sippie Wallace.

Bonnie – Freebo – Michael Cuscuna – Kendall Pacios – Bearsville Recording Studio – Give It Up 1972
© Michael Dobo

They may have initially found it somewhat strange that a young woman raised in a Quaker family from Los Angeles could find such meaning in their music – but Raitt soon won them over. “They thought her interest in the blues was some kind of freakish quirk,” Waterman told Rolling Stone in 1975, “but she’s proud that Buddy and Muddy [Waters] and Junior and [Howlin’] Wolf now regard her as a genuine peer. Not ‘she plays good for a white person or a girl,’ but ‘she plays good.'”

In her eyes, continuing the momentum she started with Bonnie Raitt was an accomplishment. Give It Up offered a lot of what fans and critics liked about Raitt’s first album – her earthy style of singing and first-class guitar playing – but with a more polished, professional sound. “It’s a great collection of songs,” Raitt said in 1976, “it had the same funky feeling of the first album – only much better recorded, on six tracks.”

Listen to Bonnie Raitt Perform ‘Love Me Like a Man’


Especially in the early days of her career, Raitt inherently stood out amongst her male counterparts. How she fit in among her female predecessors was still a point of debate, too.

“Could Bonnie Raitt be the woman to fill the gap left by Janis Joplin’s death?” one New York Times critic asked in a 1972 review of Give It Up. “Not that Raitt sounds like Joplin, but she’s a talented singer who exudes a captivating energy.” (By the way, Raitt held a considerably different opinion about her vocals on Give It Up: “I sound like Mickey Mouse,” she said in the 1995 biography Bonnie Raitt: Just in the Nick of Time.)

Raitt grew up with two brothers, so she was used to proving herself. Still, her aim was to do so in an understated way – and female fans related to that attitude.

“I think women like me because they don’t have to be jealous,” she told Rolling Stone in 1990. “I’m one of them, you know. I’m not ridiculously beautiful, and I’m not wealthy, and I’m not intimidatingly talented. I’m probably as close to a normal person as you’ll find in the music business.”

They kept buying Give It Up, which eventually reached gold certification in 1985. Raitt was probably on stage at some intimate gig, doing what she always had. “I’d rather play in little places that only charge a dollar, be on the bill with people I really like,” she told Sing Out. “That’s the only thing that matters to me, that it’s not a rip off for the people coming in, and that I have a good time.”

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