By Harvey Wasserman | The Rag Blog | September 18, 2012
Adversity can debilitate and defeat a lesser soul. But for those with the inner strength to make the climb, new heights can beckon.
Along the way — especially for a musician — it helps to have an other-worldly talent, a gift that combines decades of hard work with those inexplicable powers that come from the slipstream of the spirit.
A combination like that can light up the world, especially at jam-packed concerts that become joyful communions.
Now on the second leg of an epic U.S. tour — to be followed in Asia and Europe — Bonnie Raitt has taken it to a new level. Reading through the show-by-show reviews of her performances is like being witness to an ecstatic coronation.
Bonnie’s well-deserved joyride comes after a long ordeal of personal loss. Her parents, brother, and a close friend all passed in scary succession. She has also set sail with her own Redwing Records label.
None of which have shaken her political convictions or willingness to act on them (by way of disclosure, I’ve worked with Bonnie since 1978 and edit the website for NukeFree.org, whose core she comprises with Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and benefit producer Tom Campbell).
Bonnie’s Slipstream has the trappings of an album made by someone with a transcendent talent doing exactly what she wants — and making it work. The opening song — with which she opened concerts I saw in Indianapolis and near Dayton — is Randall Bramblett’s searing “Used to Rule the World,” an admonition to egos and empires about the immutable laws of karma:
Sitting on a park bench
Can I get a witness?
For all these decades, through a score of albums, nine Grammys, a slot at the Rock Hall, appearances with Leno-Letterman-Ellen-Colbert, Bonnie has balanced an astonishing musical range with a message and a way of carrying herself that are firmly rooted in her Quaker heritage. A mainstay of the No Nukes movement for more than 30 years, she is not shy.
Last week, while receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville, she told a standing-room-only crowd that this year’s election had become an “auction. The efforts that are going on in our country to actively discourage people from voting and to put up roadblocks to people getting registered to vote” are among “the saddest threats to our democracy to come along in a long time.”