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Bonnie Lynn Raitt (born November 8, 1949) is an American blues singer-songwriter who was born in Burbank, California. Raitt is best known for her songs "Nick of Time", "Something to Talk About", "Love Sneaking Up on You", and the ballad "I Can't Make You Love Me." Raitt is also an avid political activist and has received nine Grammy Awards in her career.
My parents would drag me out to perform for my family, like all
parents do, but it was a hobby—nothing more... I think people must
wonder how a white girl like me became a blues guitarist. The truth is,
I never intended to do this for a living. I grew up... in a Quaker
family, and for me being Quaker was a political calling rather than a
One day, Raitt was notified by a friend that blues promoter Dick Waterman was giving an interview at WHRB, Harvard's college radio station. An important figure in the blues revival of the 1960s, Waterman was also a resident of Cambridge. Raitt went to see Waterman, and the two soon became friends, "much to the chagrin of my parents, who didn't expect their freshman daughter to be running around with 65-year-old bluesmen", recalled Raitt. "I was amazed by his passion for the music and the integrity with which he managed the musicians."
During Raitt's sophomore year, Waterman relocated to Philadelphia, and a number of local musicians he counted among his friends went with him. Raitt had become a strong part of that community, recalling that "these people had become my friends, my mentors, and though I had every intention of graduating, I decided to take the semester off and move to Philadelphia...It was an opportunity that young white girls just don't get, and as it turns out, an opportunity that changed everything."
By now, Raitt was also playing folk and rhythm and blues clubs in the
Boston area, performing alongside established blues legends like Howlin'
Wolf, Sippie Wallace, and Mississippi Fred McDowell, all of whom she met
While admired by those who saw her perform, and respected by her peers, Raitt gained little public acclaim for her work. Her critical stature continued to grow but record sales remained modest. Her second album, Give It Up, was released in 1972 to universal acclaim, and though many critics still regard it as her best work, it did not change her commercial fortunes. 1973's Takin' My Time was also met with critical acclaim, but these notices were not matched by the sales.
Raitt was beginning to receive greater press coverage, including a 1975 cover story for Rolling Stone Magazine, but with 1974's Streetlights, reviews for her work were becoming increasingly mixed. By now, Raitt was already experimenting with different producers and different styles, and she began to adopt a more mainstream sound that continued through 1975's Home Plate.
In 1976, Raitt made an appearance on Warren Zevon's self-titled album
with Warren Zevon's friend Jackson Browne and
Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey
Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
Warner Bros. held higher expectations for Raitt's next album, 1979's The Glow, but it was released to poor reviews as well as modest sales. Raitt would have one commercial success in 1979 when she helped organize the five MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) concerts at Madison Square Garden. The shows spawned a three-record gold album as well as a Warner Bros. feature film, No Nukes. The shows featured co-founders Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, John Hall, and Raitt as well as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Doobie Brothers, James Taylor, Gil Scott-Heron, and numerous others.
For her next record, 1982's Green Light, Raitt made a conscious
attempt to revisit the sound of her earlier records, but to her
surprise, many of her peers and members of the press would compare her
new sound to the burgeoning New Wave movement. The album received her
strongest reviews in years, but her sales did not improve and this would
have a severe impact on her relationship with Warner Bros.
Despite her personal and professional problems, Raitt continued to
tour and participate in political activism. In 1985, she sang and
appeared in the video of "Sun City", the anti-apartheid record written
and produced by Steven Van Zandt. Along with her participation in Farm
Aid and Amnesty International concerts, Raitt would later travel to
Moscow in 1987 as part of the first joint Soviet/American Peace Concert
later shown on Showtime television. Also in 1987, Raitt would organize a
benefit in Los Angeles, for Countdown '87 to Stop Contra Aid, featuring
herself, Don Henley, Herbie Hancock, Holly Near and others.
In late 1987, she joined k.d. lang and Jennifer Warnes as female background vocals for Roy Orbison's television special, Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night. Following this highly acclaimed broadcast, she began working on new material. By now, Raitt was clean and sober, having broken her substance abuse — for which she would credit Stevie Ray Vaughan. in a Minnesota State Fair concert the night after Vaughan's 1990 death. During this time, Raitt considered signing with Prince's own label, Paisley Park, but negotiations would ultimately fall through. Instead she began recording a bluesy mix of pop and rock under the production guidance of Don Was at Capitol Records.
Raitt had met Was through Hal Wilner, who was putting together Stay
Awake, a tribute album to Disney music for A&M. Was and Wilner both
wanted Raitt to sing lead on an adult-contemporary arrangement created
by Was for "Baby Mine", the lullaby from Dumbo. Raitt was very pleased
with the sessions, and she asked Don to produce her next album.
She followed up this success with three more Grammy Awards for her 1991 album, Luck of the Draw which has currently sold nearly 8 million copies in the United States. Three years later, in 1994, she added two more Grammys with her album Longing In Their Hearts, her second no. 1 album. Both of these albums were multi-platinum successes. Raitt's collaboration with Was would amicably come to an end with 1995's live release, Road Tested. Released to solid reviews, it sold well enough to be certified gold.
For her next studio album, Raitt hired Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake
as her producers. "I loved working with Don Was but I wanted to give
myself and my fans a stretch and do something different", Raitt said.
Her work with Froom and Blake was released on Fundamental in 1998.
Silver Lining was released in 2002 while Souls Alike was released in September 2005.
Australian Country Music Artist Graeme Connors has said, "Bonnie Raitt does something with a lyric no one else can do; she bends it and twists it right into your heart." (ABC Radio NSW Australia interview with Interviewer Chris Coleman on 18 January 2007)
Raitt appeared on the June 7, 2008 broadcast of Garrison Keillor's
radio program "A Prairie Home Companion." She performed two blues songs
with Kevin "Keb' Mo'' Mo'" Moore: "No Getting Over You" and "There Ain't
Nothin' in Ramblin'." Raitt also sang "Dimming of the Day" with Richard
Thompson. The show is archived on the Prairie Home Companion web site.
In 1994 at the urging of Dick Waterman Raitt funded the replacement of a headstone for one of her mentors, Fred McDowell through the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund. Raitt would later finance memorial headstones in Mississippi for Memphis Minnie, Sam Chatmon, and Tommy Johnson through the Mt. Zion Fund.
Bonnie Raitt is a staunch political leftist. In July 2004, she drew thunderous applause at the Stockholm Jazz Festival for dedicating a classic to sitting (and later re-elected) U.S. President George W. Bush. She was quoted as saying, "We're gonna sing this for George Bush because he's out of here, people!" before she launched into the opening licks of "Your Good Thing (Is About to End)", a cover that was featured on her 1979 album The Glow. In 2002, she signed on as an official supporter of Little Kids Rock, a nonprofit organization that provides free musical instruments and free lessons to children in public schools throughout the U.S.A. She has visited children in the program and sits on the organization's board of directors as an honorary member.
Raitt worked with Reverb, a non-profit environmental organization, for her 2005 Fall/Winter and 2006 Spring/Summer/Fall tours.
Raitt is part of the No Nukes group which is against the expansion of nuclear power. In 2007 the group recorded a music video of a new version of the Buffalo Springfield song For What It's Worth.
During the 2008 Democratic primary campaign Raitt, along with Jackson Browne, performed at campaign appearances for candidate John Edwards.