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Bonnie Raitt Talks About ‘Dig In Deep,’ Life on the Road, Hijacked Elections and the ‘Wrenching Awareness’ of Wisdom With Age

on January 8, 2016 No comments

“The kind of music I do is not for sissies,” quips Bonnie Raitt, the veteran multi-Grammy-winning singer, whose blues-rock slide guitar is as fiery as her red mane.

“I mean, I love singing heartbreak ballads, and really intelligent singer-songwriter songs,” continues Raitt, 66, whose 20th album Dig in Deep, out Feb. 26, contains a rich share of both.  “But when you do those R&B and rock ’n’ roll songs, that’s the reason I’m out here doing this.  That’s why I like to get up there.”

Raitt’s devotion to both blues-rock and the touring life is clear on “Gypsy In Me,” the singer’s first lyric video and a “Dig In Deep” track, which debuted exclusively on

Life on the road is in Raitt’s blood. “I love it; my dad loved it,” she says of her father, the late Broadway star John Raitt.  “I watched him tour 25 consecutive years in summer stock and none of in our family could believe that he got paid for going up there and singing those songs every night. So early on, I got the bug.”

Raitt’s roots as a musician and social activist run deep, with some lasting—and lesser known—sources of inspiration. She was raised a Quaker.  And during her childhood, as her father played summer stock, Raitt attended a Quaker camp in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State.  Camp Regis-Applejack is still run by the Humes family on the shores of Lake Regis.

“I had eight summers there,” she recalls. “It changed my life.  It’s where I got a lot of my humanism, my appreciation for nature, my love of folk music and social justice.  The camp experience allows you to blossom out of your nuclear family role in a way that doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

Dig In Deep is on Raitt’s own Redwing label, as was her previous release Slipstream, which arrived in 2012 to critical acclaim, including a Grammy Award (her 10th) for best Americana album.

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Legendary Label Executive Joe Smith Dies at 91; Bonnie Raitt and Garth Brooks Remember His Legacy

on December 2, 2019 No comments
by Melinda Newman

Photo by Taylor Hill /Getty Images – Honoree Joe Smith attends the 2nd annual Billboard Power 100 Cocktail Reception at Emerson Theater on Jan. 23, 2014 in Hollywood, Calif.

Smith, who signed the Grateful Dead, oversaw Warner Bros., Elektra/Asylum and Capitol-EMI

Joe Smith, a legendary record executive who signed the Grateful Dead and helmed three labels, including as president and CEO of Capitol-EMI Music, has died. He was 91. His son confirmed his death to Billboard.  

Smith, who received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015, worked closely with a number of artists, including Bonnie Raitt, whom he signed while president at Warner Bros. Records in the ‘70s and then brought to Capitol and was part of her comeback  in the late ‘80s, including her multiple Grammy winner 1989’s Nick of Time.

Jackson Browne, Joe Smith and Bonnie Raitt attend the ceremony honoring Joe Smith with a Star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame on Aug. 27, 2015 in Hollywood, Calif. © David Buchan /Variety/Shutterstock

“So sorry to mark the passing of my friend and record company mentor, Joe Smith. For signing me to Warner Brothers Records in 1971 and then to Capitol Records in 1989, I owe both my start and later career breakthrough to Joe. Aside from being one of the most beloved and respected executives in the music business, his support of the more non-mainstream artists like Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, The Meters, Little Feat and myself, was what drew me to Warners in the first place. In a business that became more preoccupied with short term profits and commercial viability, what set Joe apart is that he believed in supporting artists for the long haul, allowing us to stretch and grow at our own pace and direction. Giving me that second chance for Nick of Time has made all the difference in my life and career. He was a dear friend and one of the least phony, most warm hearted and loyal people any of us in this business will be blessed to know.
My sincere condolences to Donnie and all his beautiful family.”
Bonnie Raitt

Among the other artists with whom he worked are Jackson Browne, Frank Sinatra, Garth Brooks, Eagles, Rod Stewart, The Cars and Bob Seger.

“Joe Smith was in the record business for one reason: to bring a sense of business to the art and bring a sense of the artist to the business. Good man,” Brooks told Billboard upon learning of Smith’s death. Smith and Brooks famously renegotiated Brooks’ Capitol Records Nashville contract one-on-one in 1992 alone in Smith’s Los Angeles office as the superstar’s career exploded.

Smith grew up in Chelsea, Mass. and attended Yale University. He worked as a DJ at several radio stations, including stints at WMEX and WILD Boston, for which the Valentines recorded an impossibly catchy doo-wop theme song, “You Gotta Rock with Joe Smith.” For Smith’s 85th birthday, his longtime friend Bob Merlis has LA a capella group The Mighty Echoes surprise him with a live rendition.


His first label job in the early ’60s was as a promo man for Warner Bros. It was in that capacity that he saw the Grateful Dead in the mid-’60s in San Francisco. I “saw the Grateful Dead one night at an unforgettable evening at the Avalon,” he said in a 1971 Rolling Stone interview. “I’d never seen anything like that, never seen a light show, people sitting around on the floor.” (He added in the interview that he repeatedly turned down the band’s then managers’ entreaties to drop acid with them.). Smith became president of the label in 1972, working with acts as diverse as Van Morrison, Carl Reiner, Black Sabbath, James Taylor and the Allman Bros. Band, as well as sister label Reprise Records artists like Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.

He reveled in a time when music men ran the labels and putting artistry first in the era before corporations snapped up the major labels and quarterly profits because a leading factor in decision making. As he told Billboard in 2014 when he received the Clive Davis Visionary Award at the 2014 Billboard Power 100 event. “At Warner Bros., we made more money than the movie or the television people, so we had a lot of clout, so we could go out and take shots. My partner Mo Ostin and our [Warner Communications] associates Ahmet Ertegun, David Geffen and Jac Holzman, we followed our instinct. We talked to our people…and we didn’t have to go to corporate. Our bosses in New York said, ‘Hey, come to us if you have any problems, but meanwhile run the company.’ That doesn’t happen anymore.”

He moved to Elektra/Asylum as chairman in 1975 and for the next eight years aided the careers of The Eagles, Browne, Queen, Linda Ronstadt and Motley Crue. He left Elektra/Asylum  and in 1983 became president and CEO of Warner Cable’s Home Sport Entertainment before becoming president of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (now known as The Recording Academy). 

He returned to label life in 1987, at Capitol-EMI, rising to president &CEO before  his retirement in 1993. Following his departure from Capitol-EMI, he worked with World Cup Soccer, including securing The Three Tenors for World Cup USA in 1994.  He was also well known as an artists’ advocate in the halls of Congress.

In 2012, the Library of Congress acquired more than 200 hours of interviews conducted by Smith for his 1985 book, Off the Record: An Oral History of Pop Music, a collection of interviews with more than 200 artists, producers and executives, including Woody Herman, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, Little Richard, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Dick Clark, Tina Turner, Tom Jones, B.B. King and Quincy Jones. 

A gifted raconteur, Smith became known as a toastmaster extraordinaire, hosting industry events for more than 40 years. As he modestly told the Los Angeles Times in 1993, if he had to toast himself, he’d laud his ability to encourage talent. “I’m very proud of that, because I’m in awe of the creative process…I can’t write and sing and perform, but I’ve been involved with music all my adult life and to know that I maybe have pushed somebody in the right direction, or gave ’em room to make a mistake, or make a bad record, and do something else– I think I like that.” 

Smith is survived by Donnie, his wife of 62 years, as well as his son and daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

Source: © Copyright Billboard
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Bonnie Raitt Oct. 11, 2005 Ann Arbor, Mich. (Michigan Theater)

on October 15, 2005 No comments


Bonnie Raitt’s been around long enough to have ghosts — or at least friendly spirits — all over the country. And she was feeling them when she and her band hit Ann Arbor for the fifth show of their North American tour supporting Raitt’s new album, “Souls Alike.”

An effusive Raitt told the sold-out crowd at the Michigan Theater all about her past in the town, right down to meeting support act Stephen Bruton at a 1971 gig opening for Kris Kristofferson at nearby Hill Auditorium. She also shouted out to friends and heroes in the crowd, including mandolinist David Grisman, gospel singer Marianne Williams and Ron Harwood, who managed the late roots great Sippie Wallace. Raitt performed the latter’s “Mighty Tight Woman” during the show, with Bruton guesting.

Mostly, though, Raitt’s 19-song, 100-minute was for the living — and was a testament to her enduring creative vitality. She played seven songs from the self-produced “Souls Alike,” three of them right off the bat with the smooth ‘n’ slinky “Love on One condition” (written by keyboardist Jon Cleary), the moody “God Was in the Water” — which featured one of Raitt’s arrestingly supple slide guitar solos — and the anthemic “I Will Not Be Broken.” Throughout the night she paid tribute to the various writers whose songs she recorded for the new album, including Randall Bramblett and Maia Sharp.

Raitt’s past was hardly ignored. She deployed her hits throughout the show, touching on favorites such as “Luck of the Draw,” “Something To Talk About,” “Love Sneakin’ Up on You,” a show-stopping rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and a subtly re-arranged “Love Letter,” which was funkier and more clipped than its recorded counterpart. Raitt also delighted her fans by digging into her repertoire for both recent albums tracks like “Gnawin’ on It” and “Spit of Love” but also rarities such as “Papa Come Quick (Jody and Chico)” and “Matters of the Heart,” the latter from her 1995 live album “Road Tested.”

Still fresh in their return to the touring circuit, Raitt and her four-member band were typically tight — almost intuitively so as she, Cleary and guitarist George Marinelli seamlessly traded solos over the sturdy rhythm section of bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson and drummer Ricky Fataar. The quintet never let the throttle out too much but played with adroit control, and a closing two-fer of Jr. Walker & the All Stars’ “Road Runner” and “Bad Case of Loving You” showed these 50-somethings could still rock with some abandon.

The spirits hovering in Ann Arbor were undoubtedly pleased. But the fans in the seats were probably happier — especially when Raitt promised she and the band would be back for another tour in the summer of 2006.

Here is Bonnie Raitt’s set list:

“Love on One Condition”
“God Was in the Water”
“I Will Not Be Broken”
“Gnawin’ on It”
“Matters of the Heart”
“Crooked Crown”
“Spit of Love”
“Papa Come Quick (Jody and Chico)”
“Mighty Tight Woman”
“Two Lights in the Nighttime”
“Something To Talk About”
“Love Sneakin’ Up on You”

Encore 1:
“I Don’t Want Anything To Change”
“I Can’t Make You Love Me”
“Love Letter”

Encore 2:
“Road Runner”
“Bad Case of Loving You”

Source: © Copyright Billboard

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