Bonnie Lynn Raitt was born on November 8, 1949 in Burbank, California. Her parents were both in the entertainment industry. Her father, John Raitt was a headline singer in Broadway musicals like Carousel and Oklahoma, and her mother Marge Goddard was a successful pianist/singer. She was raised in a Quaker religious atmosphere and her parents were socially and politically conscientious.
When Bonnie was eight years old she received a guitar for Christmas which began her passionate interest in music. After high school, she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where she played in local coffee houses until she dropped out of school and joined the East Coast blues and folk music scene. She developed her act as she played alongside everyone from (Big Boy) Arthur Crudup to Sippie Wallace. She connected with artists from her own generation like Jackson Browne and Little Feat and continued to be politically involved by performing at high-profile charity events.
Her early recordings beginning with her self-titled album in 1971 were made up of mainly “traditional blues.” That seminal period of development in the early 1970s saw her evolve artistically into both a phenomenal vocalist and proficient slide guitarist. It was on Sweet Forgiveness, her sixth album in 1977 that she recorded Del Shannon’s “Runaway” which became her first hit single and launched her career into the mainstream. Raitt is one of the world’s most talented female singer/ songwriter/guitarists and has released seventeen studio albums and won a total of ten “Grammy Awards.” In the year 2000 she was inducted into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
Here are Blues Rock Review’s top 10 Bonnie Raitt songs.
“Walking Blues” appeared on Bonnie Raitt’s first eponymous record album released in 1971. It’s an excellent example of the style that she began with and who better to model yourself after as a blues singer that the seminal blues guitarist Robert Johnson. The song is his composition but it was popularized by Sun House and Muddy Waters.
9. “I’m In the Mood”
“I’m In the Mood” is both a collaboration and another artist’s album. John Lee Hooker is a legendary blues singer/guitarist that recorded an album called The Healer in 1989 that contained a series of collaborations with everyone from Carlos Santana and Charlie Musselwhite to Robert Cray and Bonnie Raitt. The album was produced by Roy Rogers in San Francisco and was like frosting on the cake from all the recent success with Nick of Time and even won a Grammy for Hooker.
8. “The Thing Called Love”
“Thing Called Love” came from the Nick of Time album released in 1989. The album won multiple “Grammy Awards” including “Best Traditional Blues Recording” and “Best Female Pop and Rock” vocal performance. The song itself is a John Hiatt composition that Bonnie slightly changed the lyrics on as well as performing some amazing slide guitar playing halfway through.
7. “Angel From Montgomery”
Bonnie Raitt is a songwriter but at the same time she can take another artist’s composition and transform it into her own as any truly great performer can. “Angel from Montgomery” came from 1974’s release, Streetlights and was written by folk singer John Prine, who was inspired by Hank Williams. The song has been recorded by dozens of performers over the decades and was written from the perspective of a middle aged housewife that feels old and wants to escape her mundane everyday life.
6. “Don’t It Make You Want To Dance”
“Don’t It Make You Want to Dance” was from the soundtrack of the 1980 film with John Travolta that transformed the country from the “Disco Scene” into the Country music Scene overnight when “Urban Cowboy” hit the screens. It was originally written by Rusty Weir and it became Raitt’s only hit on country music charts.
“Runaway” is from the 1977 Sweet Forgiveness album and was originally a #1 “Top 40” radio hit in 1961 for Del Shannon. Shannon co-wrote the song with keyboardist Max Crook but Raitt completely changed the arrangement and performed a funkier R&B version of the classic. It became her first hit single and climbed the US singles chart to the #57 position.
4. “Nick of Time”
Nick of Time is Bonnie Raitt’s tenth studio album released in 1989 as well as its title song and it became her commercial breakthrough. The album was produced by Detroit, Michigan record producer Don Was and won three “Grammy Awards” including “Album of the Year.” The other two “Grammys” were for both Best “Female Pop and Rock” cocals. The song was penned by Raitt and the lyrics are heartfelt middle age female reflections about everything from the ability to give birth much longer to observing both the transformation and degeneration of age in herself and her parents.
3. “Something to Talk About”
“Something to Talk About” opens with a great slide guitar riff and was the biggest radio hit from 1991’s Luck of the Draw. It was the follow up to Nick of Time and was equally successful by earning three “Grammy Awards.” The song was written by Canadian singer/songwriter Shirley Eikhard and became one of Raitt’s signature songs as it explores the subject of “love.”
2. “I Can’t Make You Love Me”
“I Can’t Make You Love Me” is another gem from Luck of the Draw and is considered by many as one of the most beautiful songs that Bonnie recorded. Her gorgeous sultry voice is accompanied by pianist extraordinaire Bruce Hornsby as she delivers a heartfelt torch song. Country music artists and songwriters Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin wrote the song that became Raitt’s most successful single.
1. “Have a Heart”
“Have a Heart” was another hit from the multi-platinum “Grammy Award” winning 1989 album Nick of Time. One of the ironies of the success of the album had to do with the fact that Bonnie had hit rock bottom with her career when she went into the studio with an equally frustrated Don Was. The result was a masterpiece born out of pain and suffering that is reflected in the creative and emotional energy that was distilled into each cut.