song of the year

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‘I’m 73 and it shows’: The blues legend who beat Taylor Swift and Harry Styles

on March 13, 2023 No comments
Bill Wyman

There was a twist at the end of this year’s Grammy Awards. After a parade of youthful and spangled pop stars rose to the podium for various honours, the Song of the Year prize went to one Bonnie Raitt, the veteran singer-songwriter and guitarist with a distinguished 50-year career behind her, including, among other things, a previous Grammy for album of the year.

But that didn’t stop some second-tier news outlets from wondering who the hell had beaten out Lizzo, Harry Styles and Taylor Swift.

“Unknown Blues Singer Wins Song of the Year” blared several sites. The headlines soon went viral.

“That was a big surprise,” Raitt, 73, admits. “I was overwhelmed with appreciation.”

She produced the album, Just Like That…, her 18th, herself. She wrote a big chunk of it, too, and it was released on her own record label, Redwing. She’s been doing this for a while, but this time, two tracks, the title song, and the album’s closing tune, Down the Hall, connected with fans, and the larger world, in an unexpected way.

Both songs are wrenching, not because they contain sensitive personal revelations, but because of their unusual stories.

Down the Hall is told from the point of view of a prisoner who ends up working in the jail’s hospice ward, sitting with terminal inmates who have no one else. Just Like That, the Song of the Year winner, is a gentle, luminously presented tale about a woman who lost her son. But the son’s heart had been donated to someone who needed it. The recipient visits the mother and invites her to lay her head on his chest, so she can feel her departed son’s heart beating.

“Organ donation and prison hospices are not songs people generally write songs about,” Raitt says. “I think it has something to do with reaching people at such a time, with COVID and the shutdowns and the political animosity. These songs are about uplight and grace and redemption. I didn’t write them for those reasons but I think that’s why they landed this time.”

In the post-’60s wave of ’70s singer-songwriters, featuring everyone from Jackson Browne to Randy Newman to Cat Stevens, Raitt stood out. There was that redwood voice of hers. Plus she was a guitarist, self-trained and steeped in influences stretching back into deep folk and blues. Raitt is not a tall woman and the image of the diminutive singer displaying her mastery of her large and beloved Gibson hollow-body guitar became iconic.

You can hear in Bonnie Raitt’s voice her own life’s journey mixed in with those of her blues heroes © Marina Chavez

“I still have that guitar!” she exclaims.

She was unusual in other ways. Not all her fans knew her father was an icon, too: Broadway legend John Raitt. Bonnie learned to play guitar at the family house in the Hollywood Hills and went to university at Radcliffe, at the time the women’s college of Harvard.

She put out her first record, Give It Up Bonnie Raitt, in 1972 1971, the songs almost uniformly marked by her strong blues and rock licks. Her interpretation of John Prine’s Angel from Montgomery became her signature song, and a cover of Del Shannon’s early 60s chestnut Runaway gave her an unexpected hit single in 1977. “The ’70s were a blast,” she says.

Then she was dropped by her label. Follow-up albums didn’t do well. She fought drug and alcohol addiction.

But she came roaring back in the 1990s. The aptly titled Nick of Time sold five million copies and won that Album of the Year Grammy. A popular MTV video saw her canoodling with actor buddy Dennis Quaid to the song Thing Called Love.

Gracious and quick, Raitt crisscrosses her history, mentioning friends, mentors, artists gone and others still around, people she played with and those with whom she conspires to this day, from Bruce Springsteen, Linda Ronstadt, Browne and Prince to Muddy Waters and Emmylou Harris.

But the friend she remembers the most is the late Prine, the quirky, much-loved Chicago singer-songwriter who never quite rose to mass public attention. “That type of songwriting was so inspired by John,” she says.

These days, you can hear in that voice her own life’s journey mixed in with those of her blues heroes. It’s suggested that she did not so much grow into her voice but see her voice grow into her.

“That’s great,” she agrees. “After I hit 50 I could get other ranges and other colours and reflect other experiences I’ve had. I’m 73, and it shows!”

Bonnie Raitt plays Palais Theatre, Melbourne on April 5, ICC Sydney on April 7, Bluesfest, Byron Bay, on April 9 and 10.

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Source: © Copyright The Sydney Morning Herald

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6 Things To Know About Bonnie Raitt: Her Famous Fans, Legendary Friends & Lack Of Retirement Plan

on March 6, 2023 No comments
by Marah Eakin

A Special Benefit for the GRAMMY Museum’s Music Education Programs

To celebrate her incredible wins at this year’s GRAMMY Awards, including Song Of The Year, Best American Roots Song and Best Americana Performance, the GRAMMY Museum is thrilled to welcome 13-time GRAMMY-winner and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Bonnie Raitt for a special benefit program at the GRAMMY Museum. The program will be moderated by GRAMMY telecast writer and producer David Wild, an Emmy Award and Peabody Award winning writer who worked with Bonnie Raitt going back to his days at Rolling Stone magazine. Proceeds from this event will benefit the music education initiatives of the GRAMMY Museum. 

Bonnie Raitt is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose unique style blends blues, R&B, rock, and pop. After 20 years as a cult favorite, she broke through to the top in the early 90s with her GRAMMY-award-winning albums, Nick of Time and Luck of the Draw, which featured hits, “Something To Talk About” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” among others. The thirteen-time GRAMMY winner was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and Rolling Stone named the slide guitar ace one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and one of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time.”

2022 was an incredible year for Raitt with a 75-date headlining U.S. tour; the release of her critically acclaimed 21st album ‘Just Like That…,’ on her independent label, Redwing Records; receiving the Icon Award at this 2022’s Billboard Women In Music Awards and seeing her breakthrough album, ‘Nick of Time’ added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. ‘Just Like That…’ was #1 on six Billboard charts the week of release and was perched at #1 on the Americana Radio Album Chart for ten consecutive weeks. The album’s first single, “Made Up Mind” remained in the top three spots on the Americana Radio Singles Chart for 17 weeks. Raitt will be on tour for most of 2023 with stops in the U.S., Australia, the UK, Ireland, and Canada. View all concert dates here

As known for her lifelong commitment to social activism as she is for her music, Raitt has long been involved with the environmental movement, performing concerts around oil, nuclear power, mining, water, and forest protection since the mid-‘70s. She was a founding member of MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy), which produced the historic concerts, album, and movie NO NUKES, and continues to work on safe energy issues in addition to environmental protection, social justice, and human rights, as well as creator’s rights and music education.

Bonnie Raitt at the GRAMMY Museum – March 5, 2023 © Rebecca Sapp

During “A Conversation With Bonnie Raitt” at the GRAMMY Museum, 13-time GRAMMY winner detailed her career trajectory, history of big-name collaborations, and how her win for Song Of The Year at this year’s GRAMMY Awards was “a total surprise.”

For the uninitiated, Bonnie Raitt is just an “unknown blues singer” — albeit one who managed to nab the Song Of The Year award at the 2023 GRAMMYs, plus two other trophies. But to the millions in the know, and the choice few in attendance for a chat with Raitt at the Grammy Museum on March 5, she is a living legend.

Over the course of her decades-long career, Raitt has earned 30 GRAMMY nominations, taking home 13 golden gramophones for tracks like “Nick Of Time,” “Something To Talk About,” and “SRV Shuffle,” as well as albums such as Luck Of The Draw and Longing In The Hearts. Last year, Raitt was awarded the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award, and at this year’s ceremony, she snagged GRAMMYs for Best American Roots Song, Best Americana Performance and the coveted Song Of The Year.

Before she heads out on a tour of the western United States and Australia, Raitt sat down to chat with moderator David Wild for about two hours, musing not only about her “total surprise” about snagging the Song trophy, but also about her experience at the ceremony. It was an illuminating and downright charming experience — as well as an educational one. Here are six things we learned at “A Conversation With Bonnie Raitt.” 

Taylor Swift Is A Fan —  And A Humble One At That

Raitt recounted being chatted up by Taylor Swift during the GRAMMYs, with Swift telling Raitt backstage that she felt okay losing Song Of The Year to her. Swift’s “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” was in competition, alongside works by Lizzo, Adele and Harry Styles.

Swift also introduced herself to Raitt, whom she’d never met, saying,”Hi, I’m Taylor.” Raitt said she responded, “Ya think?” — which made the audience in the Clive Davis Theater crack up.

She’s A Master Collaborator, With More On The Way

“No one commands more respect” amongst their musical peers than Bonnie Raitt, said Wild, who’s worked on the GRAMMY Awards as a writer since 2001. Whenever the show’s team has struggled to think of who could best pay tribute to someone like John Prine, Ray Charles, or Christine McVie, “the answer is always Bonnie Raitt.”

That’s probably why, as Raitt noted, she’s recorded duets with more than 100 different musical acts — from Bryan Adams to B.B. King. Raitt added that she’d still love to work with Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, and H.E.R., and that fans can anticipate new collaborative work coming from work she’s done with Brandi Carlile and Sheryl Crow

Raitt added that she’s gotten really into Unknown Mortal Orchestra lately, who she heard about through Bruce Hornsby.

She’s Learned From And Befriended Musical Masters

Raitt was effusive about her love for King, among others, saying that one of the great joys of her career has been sitting at the feet of blues greats like Sippie Wallace and Son House. The singer/songwriter expressed her gratitude for being able to help get so many of these once-forgotten masters both the attention and the pay they deserved. She cited her work with the Rhythm And Blues Foundation as being of great importance to her personally, saying that it’s vital that the roots of blues and jazz are taught in schools today.

Wild also got Raitt to open up about her friendship with legendary gospel-soul singer Mavis Staples, who toured with Raitt just last year. Calling Staples, “all the preacher I’ll ever need,” Raitt said she thinks she and Staples bonded over being the daughters of famous fathers. “It’s a great honor of my life being friends with her,” Raitt said of her “mutual sister.”

Later, Raitt also waxed rhapsodic about another famous daughter, Natalie Cole, who she said she’d been thinking about all day.

Raitt’s Got An Independent Spirit And An Independent Label

A good portion of Wild and Raitt’s chat was devoted to the star’s career trajectory. The two detailed how, as a 21-year-old college student, Raitt signed to Warner Bros. only after they promised her complete creative control and nowadays has her own indie label, Redwing.

Raitt said it was only with the help of a”team of mighty women” that she was able to go independent. She cited lessons from friends like Prine, Staples, and Jackson Browne, from whom she learned going it alone could be done successfully. 

Bonnie Raitt Almost Missed Out On “I Can’t Make You Love Me”

Raitt also talked a bit about her previous GRAMMY triumphs, including her run of nominations and wins around 1989’s Nick Of Time. Her popular single, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” was originally written for Ricky Skaggs, who intended to make it a lively bluegrass record. 

Raitt added that she thinks the song “Nick Of Time” struck a chord because she opened up about what it means to be getting older.

She’s Not Planning On Retiring (Or Dying) Any Time Soon

After joking that COVID lockdown felt like “house arrest” and “hibernation,” Raitt said that her recent tours have been a blessing. “It feels like I was under the earth without any sunshine,” Raitt says, reassuring attendees that she’s “never retiring.” She said that while she’s lost eight friends in the past three or four weeks, including the great David Lindley, the 73-year-old is optimistic that she can “be here and celebrate for another couple of decades.”

Raitt capped off the event doing what she loves best, teaming with long-time bassist Hutch Hutchinson for an intimate four-song set that included “Angel From Montgomery,” “Shadow Of Doubt,” “Nick Of Time,” and the GRAMMY-winning “Just Like That.” Raitt ended the evening by thanking the Recording Academy for inviting her out, joking, “I can’t believe I get to do this for a living.”

Source: © Copyright The Grammy Awards

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Four Lessons From Bonnie Raitt’s GRAMMY Win

on February 24, 2023 No comments
by Kay Kinney

Music professionals and fans alike were stunned earlier this month when 73-year-old Bonnie Raitt took home the GRAMMY Award for Song of The Year. Here are some lessons you can take to heart.

This year’s GRAMMY Awards nominee list was dominated by younger artists, as has been the case for many years. So it was a shocking moment at the awards ceremony when veteran singer and blues guitarist Bonnie Raitt was announced as the winner of Song of the Year for her song “Just Like That.” Social media lit up. Many younger music fans did not know who Raitt even was. Older fans were not familiar with the song or Raitt’s recent album of the same title. Others were simply disappointed fans of the other nominees, who included pop music superstars Beyoncé and Harry Styles.

Raitt herself seemed flabbergasted by her win. But I wasn’t. I listened to all kinds of new music last year, and I knew and liked all the nominated songs. I thought Raitt’s was the best. But the fact that so many were surprised got me thinking about what we could learn from her win.

1. Stories still matter. I knew “Just Like That” was a great song the first time I heard it a year ago. It tells a compelling story, based on a true story that Raitt had seen on a local news station while touring. It tells about a woman who is visited by a stranger, who tells her that many years earlier he received a heart transplant, and tracked her down because the heart was her son’s. He invites her to place her head on his chest so she can hear her son’s heart beating and be close to him again. Raitt tells this story beautifully and sets it to a stark but lovely melody. 

The best songs are still those that tell stories – they may not always be as heavy as this one, they might even be funny or ironic or joyous, but they invite the listener to “see” the story and understand and feel empathy with the characters in the song or with the singer. When you listen to music, old or new, you will likely find that the songs that stick with you are the ones that tell interesting stories.


2. You’re never too old to do something new. We hear this maxim all the time, andmost of us believe it, at least on some level. But it’s great to be reminded! In addition to the 73-year-old Raitt, blues legend Buddy Guy was also nominated for a GRAMMY at 86, as was Elvis Costello who is 68. One of my favorite new albums and live shows last year was by 1980s chart toppers Tears For Fears. Bruce Springsteen just released a new album and is touring the world this year at 73. Welsh superstar Tom Jones, who is 82, released a fantastic new album in 2021 and is also touring this year, and slaying audiences as a coach on “The Voice UK.” These legends aren’t just resting on their laurels and cashing in on Boomers who want to hear “the old stuff” we grew up with. They’re staying relevant and gaining entire new generations of fans with brand new music. We can all strive to do new things, explore new hobbies or jobs, or hone our existing ones with new information and ideas to reach a new audience and keep ourselves fresh. We can travel to new places and meet new people. Nostalgia is fine, but don’t let it dominate your life.

3. Learn and grow from your reflections during the pandemic. Last year I listened to an interview of Bonnie Raitt on the public radio show World Café. She talked about how devastated she had been in 2020 when her tour had to be canceled due to the pandemic. She even admitted spending a lot of time in bed under the covers, depressed and not wanting to do anything. I could relate! But she eventually got out of bed and realized that while she could not do the live shows she loved, she could use the time off from touring to figure out what she wanted to say next. She could write new songs and find others that were meaningful to her. So she set about doing that, and ended up producing one of the best albums of her 50 year career – and won three GRAMMY awards! Her tour last year sold out all over the country. I think we can all take this as a lesson. If you’re like me, you probably spent a lot of time during the Covid lockdowns thinking about what meant the most to you and what you missed the most.  Revisit those thoughts.  Don’t be afraid to get back out there and do what you love!  Realize that the time you spent reflecting can help you now to do your best work ever, try something you always wanted to do, or have the most joyous experiences of your life!

4. Keep up with artists you like and go see them. I’ve been surprised by how many of my now-retired friends have told me they loved Bonnie Raitt “back in the day,” but didn’t know she released a new album last year and did a nationwide tour. Many of them haven’t seen a live concert or bought new music in years. These are people who once had walls lined with records and went to every show imaginable! We are a generation whose lives revolved around music in our formative years and throughout much of our adulthood. There’s no reason to give that up now! My husband and I attended over 40 concerts last year, many by great younger artists but also some legends like Raitt and Buddy Guy. We even planned a vacation around a concert by one of our favorite bands. Live music is one of the best stress relievers and happiness producers in the world! And many of these artists you love are near the end of their touring days, so see them while you still can. Even if it’s just a Tom Petty tribute band playing in your local tavern, go see them. If you love Broadway shows but can’t get to New York, go see your local high school production. If all you can afford is a lawn spot for a concert, go anyway. You will be happier and make great memories.

If you still have a turntable or CD player, dust off those old albums and maybe buy some new ones. Find a used record shop and pick up the ones you may have missed or lost. Many of them can be had for just a dollar or two. Play them. A lot. Or consider subscribing to a digital music streaming service; you can set it up to get alerts for new music by your longtime favorites, and suggestions of new artists that you might also like and want to go see. You can make your own playlists of your favorite songs or artists, find “channels” that play the music genres you like, or just listen to your favorite classic albums while you’re on your daily walk. These are great ways to get music back into your life. And you won’t be surprised by the Grammy Awards again!

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Source: © Copyright The Street

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