Bonnie Lynn Raitt
(born November 8, 1949) is an American blues singer-songwriter and slide guitar player. During the 1970s, Raitt released a series of roots-influenced albums which incorporated elements of blues, rock, folk and country. In the 1990s she had a major return to form with the release of her album "Nick of Time" after several years of critical acclaim but little commercial success. The following two albums "Luck of the Draw" and "Longing in Their Hearts" were also multi million sellers generating several hit singles including "Something to Talk About", "Love Sneakin' Up on You", and the ballad "I Can't Make You Love Me" (with Bruce Hornsby on piano). Raitt has received ten Grammy Awards. She is listed as number 50 in Rolling Stone
magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and number 89 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.1970 to 1976In the fall of 1970, while opening for Mississippi Fred McDowell at the Gaslight Cafe in New York, she was seen by a reporter from Newsweek
Magazine, who began to spread word of her performance. Scouts from major record companies were soon attending her shows to watch her play. She eventually accepted an offer with Warner Bros. who soon released her debut album, Bonnie Raitt
, in 1971. The album was warmly received by the music press, many of whom praised her skills as an interpreter and as a bottleneck guitarist; at the time, very few women in popular music had strong reputations as guitarists.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; 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 eponymous album with his friend Jackson Browne and Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
1977 to 1988: Commercial breakthrough
1977's Sweet Forgiveness
album gave Raitt her first commercial breakthrough when it yielded a hit single in her cover of "Runaway." Recast as a heavy rhythm and blues recording based on a rhythmic groove inspired by Al Green, Raitt's version of "Runaway" was disparaged by many critics. However, the song's commercial success prompted a bidding war for Raitt between Warner Bros. and Columbia Records. "There was this big Columbia – Warner war going on at the time", recalled Raitt in a 1990 interview. "James Taylor had just left Warner Bros. and made a big album for Columbia...And then, Warner signed Paul Simon away from Columbia, and they didn't want me to have a hit record for Columbia — no matter what! So, I renegotiated my contract, and they basically matched Columbia's offer. Frankly the deal was a really big deal."Warner Brothers held higher expectations for Raitt's next album, The Glow
in 1979, 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 Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The shows spawned the a three-record gold album as well as a Warner Brothers 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, Carly Simon, 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. However, to her surprise, many of her peers and the media compared 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 Brothers.
Drop from Warner Brothers
In 1983, as Raitt was finishing work on her follow-up album, entitled Tongue & Groove
, Warner Brothers "cleaned house", dropping a number of major artists such as Van Morrison and Arlo Guthrie from their roster. The day after mastering was completed on Tongue & Groove
, the record label dropped Raitt also. The album was shelved indefinitely, and Raitt was left without a record label. By then, Raitt was also struggling with alcohol and drug abuse problems.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 guitarist Steven Van Zandt. Along with her participation in Farm Aid and Amnesty International concerts, Raitt traveled to Moscow in 1987 to participate in the first joint Soviet/American Peace Concert, later shown on the Showtime television network. Also in 1987, Raitt organized a benefit in Los Angeles for Countdown '87 to Stop Contra Aid. The benefit featured herself along with musicians Don Henley, Herbie Hancock, Holly Near and others.
Tongue and Groove's name change and release
Two years after dropping her from their label, Warner Brothers notified Raitt of their plans to release Tongue & Groove
. "I said it wasn't really fair," recalled Raitt. "I think at this point they felt kind of bad. I mean, I was out there touring on my savings to keep my name up, and my ability to draw was less and less. So they agreed to let me go in and recut half of it, and that's when it came out as Nine Lives
." A critical and commercial disappointment, 1986's Nine Lives
would be Raitt's last new recording for Warner Brothers.In late 1987, Raitt joined singers 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, Raitt began working on new material. By then, Raitt was clean and sober, having resolved her substance abuse problem. She later credited Stevie Ray Vaughan for his help 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 ultimately fell 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 Was to produce her next album.
1989 to 1995: Increased recognition
After nearly 20 years, Bonnie Raitt achieved belated commercial success with her tenth album, Nick of Time
. Released in the spring of 1989, Nick of Time
went to the top of the U.S. charts following Raitt's Grammy sweep in early 1990. This album has been voted number 230 in the Rolling Stone magazine list of 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. Raitt herself pointed out that her 10th try was "my first sober album."At the same time, Raitt received a fourth Grammy Award for her duet "In the Mood" with John Lee Hooker on his album The Healer
. Nick of Time was also the first of many of her recordings to feature her longtime rhythm section of Ricky Fataar and James "Hutch" Hutchinson (Although previously Fataar had played on her Green Light album and Hutchinson had worked on Nine Lives). Nick of Time
has sold over six million copies in the US alone.Raitt followed up this success with three more Grammy Awards for her 1991 album, Luck of the Draw
which 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
1996 to 2007
In March 2000, Raitt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.Silver Lining
was released in 2002. In the US, it reached 13 on the Billboard chart and was later certified Gold. It contains the 3 singles "I Can't Help You Now", "Time of Our Lives" and the title track. All 3 singles charted within the top 40 of the US A/C chart.In 2003 Capitol Records released the compilation album The Best of Bonnie Raitt
. It contains songs from her prior Capitol albums from 1989 - 2002 including Nick of Time
, Luck of the Draw
, Longing in Their Hearts
, Road Tested
, and Silver Lining
followed and was released in September 2005. In the US, it reached the top 20 on the Billboard chart. It contains the singles "I Will Not Be Broken" and "I Don't Want Anything to Change", which both charted in the top 40 of the US A/C chart.In 2006 she released the live album Bonnie Raitt and Friends
. Special guests include Keb Mo', Alison Krauss, Ben Harper, Jon Cleary and Norah Jones.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)In 2007, Raitt contributed to Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino
. With Jon Cleary, she sang a medley of "I'm in Love Again" and "All by Myself" of Fats Domino.
2008 to Present
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'" Moore: "No Getting Over You" and "There Ain't Nothin' in Ramblin'." Raitt also sang Dimming of the Day with Richard Thompson. This show, along with another one which Raitt with her band in October 2006, is archived on the Prairie Home Companion web site.In February 2012, Raitt performed a duet with Alicia Keys at the 54th Grammy Awards in 2012 honoring Etta James.In April 2012, Raitt released her first studio album since 2005 entitled Slipstream
. It charted at number 6 on the US Billboard 200 chart marking her first top ten album since 1994's Longing in Their Hearts
. The album was described as "one of the best of her 40-year career" by American Songwriter Magazine.In September 2012, she was featured in a campaign called "30 Songs / 30 Days" to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
, a multi-platform media project inspired by a project outlined in a book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. In 2013, she appeared on Foy Vance's album, Joy Of Nothing.
Raitt is listed at number 50 in Rolling Stone
magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. She is also listed at number 89 in the Rolling Stone
list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Drug and alcohol use, and recovery
Raitt used alcohol and drugs, but began psychotherapy and joined Alcoholics Anonymous in the late 1980s. She has said "I thought I had to live that partying lifestyle in order to be authentic, but in fact if you keep it up too long, all you're going to be is sloppy or dead." She became clean in 1987. She has credited Stevie Ray Vaughan for breaking her substance abuse, saying that what gave her the courage to admit her alcohol problem and stop drinking was seeing that Stevie Ray Vaughan was an even better musician when sober. She has also said that she stopped because she realised that the 'late night life' was not working for her. In 1989 she said "I really feel like some angels have been carrying me around. I just have more focus and more discipline, and consequently more self-respect."
Raitt has taken sabbaticals, including after the deaths of her parents, brother and best friend. She has said "When I went through a lot of loss, I took a hiatus."Raitt and actor Michael O'Keefe were married on April 27, 1991, when he was 36 and she 41. They announced their divorce on November 9, 1999, with a causal factor appearing to be that their careers caused considerable time apart.
Raitt's political involvement goes back to the early seventies. Her 1972 album "Give it up" had a dedication "to the people of North Vietnam ..." printed on the back.Raitt's web site urges fans to learn more about preserving the environment. She was a founding member of Musicians United for Safe Energy in 1979 and a catalyst for the larger anti-nuclear movement, becoming involved with groups like the Abalone Alliance and Alliance for Survival.In 1994 at the urging of writer Dick Waterman, Raitt funded the replacement of a headstone for one of her mentors, blues guitarist Fred McDowell through the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund. Raitt later financed memorial headstones in Mississippi for musicians Memphis Minnie, Sam Chatmon, and Tommy Johnson again with the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund.At the Stockholm Jazz Festival in July 2004, Raitt dedicated 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, Raitt 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.In 2008, Raitt donated a song to the Aid Still Required's CD to assist with relief efforts in Southeast Asia from the 2004 Tsunami.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, No Nukes 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 and bassist James "Hutch" Hutchinson, performed at campaign appearances for candidate John Edwards.