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.”
Eighteen years have passed since Bonnie Raitt joined Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, and other musical luminaries at the legendary “No Nukes” concert at Madison Square Garden. And while many of her way-back-when peers who also performed at that show have since suffered artistic or commercial setbacks — see Jackson Browne, Carly Simon, the Doobie Brothers — the red-haired roots-rock diva has demanded that Father Time treat her right.
In what was billed as the largest anti-nuclear concert since then, Raitt and the cause-obsessed Indigo Girls journeyed to the nation’s capital to protest the burial of nuclear waste on Native American land. The crowd was also treated to several surprises — a weathered-looking Browne kicked off the evening with an impromptu, three-song set and pop-folksinger Beth Nielsen Chapman hopped onstage for what seemed like every other song — but the evening’s most satisfying moments came when Raitt curled her whiskey-n-smoke-solid voice around one of her trademark slide-guitar licks.
In a daring, potentially disastrous move, Raitt opened her portion of the show with an a cappella version of Chapman’s new “Color of Roses.” “It’s gonna take a lot of ovaries for me to sing this in front of the woman who wrote it,” Raitt laughed nervously. “But Beth, I love you.” Raitt treated the dirge-like song with solemn respect, conveying more emotion at 48 than she could have at 30.
Honor the Earth Presents No Nukes to Benefit NIRS
A pretty good sounding recording of a great show. The lineup that evening included Jackson Browne, John Trudell, Indigo Girls, Ulali, Beth Nielson Chapman, and Bonnie Raitt. John Trudell guests on a stunning 'Scooter Boys', Amy and Emily join Bonnie Raitt for 'Angel From Montgomery', and the entire group joins together for 'Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee'. Bonnie Raitt's set is included.
Indigo Girls - Shame On You
Indigo Girls with Ulali - Burn All The Letters
Indigo Girls - Tried To Be True
Indigo Girls - Get Out The Map
Indigo Girls with John Trudell - Scooter Boys
Ulali - Unknown
Indigo Girls with Ulali - Shed Your Skin
Indigo Girls - Galileo
Indigo Girls - Chickenman
Indigo Girls with Bonnie Raitt & Beth Nielsen Chapman - Closer To Fine
Bonnie Raitt - Dimming Of The Day
Beth Nielsen Chapman & Bonnie Raitt - Sand And Water
Bonnie Raitt - Rainy Day Man
Bonnie Raitt - Write Me A Few Of Your Lines - Walkin' Blues
Bonnie Raitt - Thing Called Love
Bonnie Raitt with Indigo Girls - Angel From Montgomery
Bonnie Raitt-Indigo Girls-Jackson Browne-Ulali-John Trudell-Beth Nielsen Chapman - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
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As the crowd erupted — some even stood for a shrieking ovation — Raitt invited her three-man backing band (drums, bass, piano) onstage, strapped on a guitar, and ripped into the old Aretha Franklin standard, “Baby I Love You.” If that wasn’t steamy enough, she followed it with a slowed-down bump-and-grind version of “The Road’s My Middle Name.” “Ooh, this is getting sooo slinky,” Raitt purred during her solo, directing her power poses and double entendres at husband Michael O’Keefe. She later tore into Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues,” then slipped casually into the obligatory “Thing Called Love.” For an encore, Raitt invited the Indigo Girls, Chapman, and Native American singing group Ulali onstage to join her on “Angel From Montgomery” and the Buffy Sainte-Marie classic “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”
Wednesday’s “No Nukes” concert at the Warner Theatre was the perfect thing to irk Gingrich Republicans: a bunch of unapologetic liberals having a good time being, well, liberals.
The evening went off like a thoroughly politicized version of a musical-variety show, with sets by the artists — John Trudell, Indigo Girls and Bonnie Raitt, with a surprise appearance by Jackson Browne — interspersed with activists and politicians including Sen. Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), speaking in favor of the evening’s cause, barring nuclear waste dumps on Native American lands in the West.
Trudell, an activist turned musician, was by far the most strident, mixing poetry set to the tune of Indian chants by Milton “Quilt” Sahme with somewhat woolly-minded political diatribes (“the whole concept of freedom is just heroin for your consciousness”).
After Browne’s three-song appearance, featuring slide guitar and vocal help from Bonnie Raitt on “World in Motion,” Indigo Girls turned in a hard-edged set, marked by singer Amy Ray’s hyperkinetic stage presence. The Native American vocal trio Ulali provided a passionate accompaniment to “Shed Your Skin”; the set-closing “Closer to Fine” provided a contrasting dose of good-natured musical sloppiness.
Raitt offered easily the best singing of the night; her voice is a rare combination of husky aggression (as in her cover of John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love”) and choir-girl clarity (Richard Thompson’s “Dimming of the Day”). Much of Raitt’s set consisted of quieter, almost hushed ballads like Beth Nielsen-Chapman’s “Color of Roses,” but plenty of kick remained in numbers like her twitchy, ska-flavored take on “Come to Me” and the show-closing cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”
Honor The Earth press conference – Washington, D.C. Sept.24, 1997
Press conference on the West Terrace of the Capitol in opposition to H.R. 1270, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1997, which would allow for the transfer of radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
Honor The Earth
Honor the Earth was established by Winona LaDuke and Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, in 1993. In our 20+ years of operation, we have re-granted over two million dollars to over 200 Native American communities.
Our mission is to create awareness and support for Native environmental issues and to develop needed financial and political resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities. Honor the Earth develops these resources by using music, the arts, the media, and Indigenous wisdom to ask people to recognize our joint dependency on the Earth and be a voice for those not heard.
John Trudell – Wikipedia
In memory of John Trudell
John Trudell (February 15, 1946 – December 8, 2015) was a Native American author, poet, actor, musician, and political activist. He was the spokesperson for the United Indians of All Tribes’ takeover of Alcatraz beginning in 1969, broadcasting as Radio Free Alcatraz. During most of the 1970s, he served as the chairman of the American Indian Movement, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Winona LaDuke - Honor The Earth
Bonnie Raitt - Musician - No Nukes Activist
Harvey Wasserman - Greenpeace
Harry Reid - Senator, D-Nev
Richard Bryan - Senator, D-Nev
Amy Ray - Indigo Girl - Activist
Dedee Sanchez - Citizen Alert Native American Program
Emily Saliers - Indigo Girl - Activist
John Trudell - Native American poet, musician and activist
Jackson Browne - Musician - No Nukes Activist
Diane D'Arrigo - Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS)
Winona LaDuke - Honor The Earth
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White Earth Land Recovery Project
Winona LaDuke is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi band of Ashinaabeg who lives and works on the White Earth Indian Reservation and is the mother of three children. Winona founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project in 1989 and served as its executive director for 25 years. She is currently the executive director of Honor the Earth, where she works on a national level to advocate, raise public support, and create funding for frontline Native environmental groups. In 1994, Winona was nominated by Time Magazine as one of America’s fifty most promising leaders under forty years of age. She was awarded The Thomas Merton Award in 1996, The Biha Community Service Award in 1997, The Ann Bancroft Award for Women’s Leadership Fellowship, and The Reebok Human Rights Award (which she used to begin the White Earth Land Recovery Project).
Harvey Wasserman – Wikipedia
Harvey Franklin Wasserman (born December 31, 1945) is an American journalist, author, democracy activist, and advocate for renewable energy. He has been a strategist and organizer in the anti-nuclear movement in the United States for over 30 years. He has been a featured speaker on Today, Nightline, National Public Radio, CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight and other major media outlets. Wasserman is senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, an investigative reporter, and senior editor of The Columbus Free Press where his coverage, with Bob Fitrakis, has prompted Rev. Jesse Jackson to call them “the Woodward and Bernstein of the 2004 election.”
Harry Reid – Wikipedia
Harry Mason Reid born December 2, 1939) is a retired American attorney and politician who served as a United States Senator from Nevada from 1987 to 2017. He led the Senate Democratic Caucus from 2005 to 2017 and was the Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015.
Richard Bryan – Wikipedia
Richard Hudson Bryan (born July 16, 1937) is an American attorney and politician who served as a United States Senator from Nevada from 1989 to 2001. A Democrat, Bryan served as the 25th Governor of Nevada from 1983 to 1989, and before that served as the state’s attorney general and a member of the State Senate.
Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository – Wikipedia
The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, as designated by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act amendments of 1987, is a proposed deep geological repository storage facility within Yucca Mountain for spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive waste in the United States. The site is on federal land adjacent to the Nevada Test Site in Nye County, Nevada, about 80 mi (130 km) northwest of the Las Vegas Valley.
Help Stop the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017 (H.R. 3053)! · NIRS
Contact your US Representatives and tell them to vote NO on a nuclear waste bill being rushed through Congress—one of the most dangerous we have seen. U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) bill H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, threatens nearly every state with decades of nuclear w…
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Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, Vol. 2, the anticipated new John Prine tribute record from Oh Boy Records, is out today. Stream/purchase HERE.
Created as a celebration of Prine’s life and career, the album features new renditions of some of Prine’s most beloved songs performed by Brandi Carlile (“I Remember Everything”), Tyler Childers (“Yes I Guess They Oughta Name A Drink After You”), Iris DeMent (“One Red Rose”), Emmylou Harris (“Hello In There”), Jason Isbell (“Souvenirs”), Valerie June (“Summer’s End”), Margo Price (“Sweet Revenge”), Bonnie Raitt (“Angel From Montgomery”), Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (“Pretty Good”), Amanda Shires (“Saddle in the Rain”), Sturgill Simpson(“Paradise”) and John Paul White (“Sam Stone”). Proceeds from the album will benefit twelve different non-profit organizations, one selected by each of the featured artists.
Bonnie Raitt - Write Me a Few of Your Lines/Kokomo Blues
60 years anniversary celebration of Arhoolie - December 10, 2020
Arhoolie Foundation celebrates it's 60th anniversary (1960-2020) with an online broadcast.
Bonnie Raitt - Shadow of Doubt - Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival - October 3, 2020
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass celebrates it's 20th anniversary with an online broadcast titled “Let The Music Play On”.
Bonnie Raitt & Boz Scaggs - You Don't Know Like I Know - Farm Aid 2020 On the Road
Sam & Dave classic written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter.
Eric Clapton, one of the world’s pre-eminent blues/rock guitarists, once again summoned an all-star team of six-string heroes for his fifth Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2019. Held at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, the two-day concert event raised funds for the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, the chemical dependency treatment and education facility that Clapton founded in 1998.
'A Tribute To Mose Allison' Celebrates The Music Of An Exciting Jazz Master
Raitt contributed to a new album, If You're Going To The City: A Tribute To Mose Allison, which celebrates the late singer and pianist, who famously blended the rough-edged blues of the Mississippi Delta with the 1950s jazz of New York City.
NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Bonnie Raitt about her friendship with the Mose Allison. They're also joined by Amy Allison — his daughter, who executive produced the album — about selecting an unexpected list of artists to contribute songs to the album.