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Long a critic's darling, singer/guitarist Bonnie Raitt did not begin to win the comparable commercial success due her until the release of the aptly titled 1989 blockbuster Nick of Time; her tenth album, it rocketed her into the mainstream consciousness nearly two decades after she first committed her unique blend of blues, rock, and R&B to vinyl. Born in Burbank, CA, on November 8, 1949, she was the daughter of Broadway star John Raitt, best known for his starring performances in such smashes as Carousel and Pajama Game. After picking up the guitar at the age of 12, Raitt felt an immediate affinity for the blues, and although she went off to attend Radcliffe in 1967, within two years she had dropped out to begin playing the Boston folk and blues club circuit. Signing with noted blues manager Dick Waterman, she was soon performing alongside the likes of idols including Howlin' Wolf, Sippie Wallace, and Mississippi Fred McDowell and in time earned such a strong reputation that she was signed to Warner Bros.
Debuting in 1971 with an eponymously titled effort, Raitt immediately emerged as a critical favorite, applauded not only for her soulful vocals and thoughtful song selection but also for her guitar prowess, turning heads as one of the few women to play bottleneck. Her 1972 follow-up, Give It Up, made better use of her eclectic tastes, featuring material by contemporaries like Jackson Browne and Eric Kaz, in addition to a number of R&B chestnuts and even three Raitt originals. 1973's Takin' My Time was much acclaimed, and throughout the middle of the decade she released an LP annually, returning with Streetlights in 1974 and Home Plate a year later. With 1977's Sweet Forgiveness, Raitt scored her first significant pop airplay with her hit cover of the Del Shannon classic "Runaway"; its follow-up, 1979's The Glow, appeared around the same time as a massive all-star anti-nuclear concert at Madison Square Garden mounted by MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy), an organization she'd co-founded earlier.
Throughout her career, Raitt remained a committed activist, playing hundreds of benefit concerts and working tirelessly on behalf of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. By the early '80s, however, her own career was in trouble -- 1982's Green Light, while greeted with the usual good reviews, again failed to break her to a wide audience, and while beginning work on the follow-up, Warner unceremoniously dropped her. By this time, Raitt was also battling drug and alcohol problems as well; she worked on a few tracks with Prince, but their schedules never aligned and the material went unreleased. Instead, she finally released the patchwork Nine Lives in 1986, her worst-selling effort since her debut.
Many had written Raitt off when she teamed with producer Don Was and recorded Nick of Time; seemingly out of the blue, the LP won a handful of Grammys, including Album of the Year, and overnight she was a superstar. 1991's Luck of the Draw was also a smash, yielding the hits "Something to Talk About" and "I Can't Make You Love Me." After 1994's Longing in Their Hearts, Raitt resurfaced in 1998 with Fundamental. Silver Lining appeared in 2002, followed by Souls Alike in 2005, both on Capitol Records. A year later, a bootleg-feel live set, Bonnie Raitt and Friends, was released, featuring guest appearances from Norah Jones and Ben Harper, among others. Raitt stepped back from the life of a professional musician over the next few years as she dealt with the passing of her parents, her brother, and her best friend. The break from recording and touring was redemptive for Raitt in many ways, and she returned focused and renewed in 2012 with her first studio album in seven years, Slipstream, released on her own new Redwing label imprint.
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 1989 after several years of critical acclaim but little commercial success she had a major return to form with the release of her album Nick of Time. The following two albums Luck of the Draw (1991) and Longing in Their Hearts (1994) 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 10 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."100 Greatest Singers". Rolling Stone. November 23, 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-01. "100 Greatest Guitarists". Rolling Stone. November 23, 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
Raitt was born in Burbank, California. She is the daughter of Broadway musical star John Raitt and his first wife, pianist Marjorie Haydock. She began playing guitar at an early age. Later she gained notice for her bottleneck-style guitar playing. Raitt says she played "a little at school and at [a summer] camp" called Camp Regis-Applejack in New York.
After graduating from Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1967 Raitt entered Radcliffe College majoring in social relations and African Studies. Raitt said her "plan was to travel to Tanzania, where President Julius Nyerere was creating a government based on democracy and socialism". Raitt became friends with then 65-year-old bluesman Dick Waterman. During her second year Raitt took a semester off and moved to Philadelphia with Waterman and a number of local musicians. Raitt says it was an "opportunity that changed everything.""Bonnie Raitt". Bonnie Raitt. Retrieved 2014-04-19. "Bonnie Raitt's Aha! Moment". O, The Oprah Magazine, v.3, no.7, July 2002, pp.47–48."
ContentsCareer1.1 1970–761.2 1977–88: Commercial breakthrough1.3 Drop from Warner Brothers1.4 Tongue and Groove's name change and release1.5 1989–95: Increased recognition1.6 1996–20071.7 2008–present
In 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.
1977–88: 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.
1989–95: Increased recognition
After working with Was on the “Stay Awake” album, Raitt’s management, Gold Mountain, approached numerous labels about a new record deal, and she was signed to Capital by a&r executive Tim Devine. At Capital, after nearly 20 years, 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,
"Rock Steady" was a hit written by Bryan Adams and Gretchen Peters in 1995. The song was written as a duet with Bryan Adams and Bonnie Raitt for her Road Tested tour, which also became one of her albums. The original demo version of the song appears on Adams' 1996 single "Let's Make a Night to Remember". 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.
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, Fundamental, and Silver Lining.
Souls Alike 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 DVD/CD Bonnie Raitt and Friends, which was filmed as part of the critically acclaimed VH1 Classic Decades Rock Live Concert Series, featuring special guests Keb Mo', Alison Krauss, Ben Harper, Jon Cleary and Norah Jones. The DVD was released by Capitol Records on August 15. Bonnie Raitt and Friends, which was recorded live at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, NJ on September 30, 2005, features never-before-seen performance and interview footage, including four duets not included in the VH1 Classic broadcast of the concert. With two hours of concert and interview footage, the concert which was filmed in Hi-Definition and is presented in 5.1 audio, features Raitt performing 17 songs with her longtime band – George Marinelli (guitar), James "Hutch" Hutchinson (bass), Ricky Fataar (drums) and Jon Cleary (keyboards). Included are such classic Raitt hits as "Something To Talk About," "Love Letter" (with Mo'), "You" (with Krauss) and a knock-out encore of "Love Sneakin' Up on You" with Raitt, Jones, Harper, Krauss and Mo' as well as highlights from her latest studio album, Souls Alike, including "I Will Not Be Broken," "God Was in the Water", "I Don't Want Anything To Change" (with Jones) and "Unnecessarily Mercenary" (a duet with keyboardist Cleary, who wrote the song). The accompanying CD features 11 tracks, including the radio single "Two Lights in the Nighttime" (featuring Ben Harper). The Bonnie Raitt and Friends TV Special and DVD/CD was produced by Barry Summers of World Productions and Rock Fuel Media.
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 January 18, 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.
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 with Raitt and her band in October 2006, is archived on the Prairie Home Companion website.
In April 2011, the Bonnie Raitt and Friends DVD officially became RIAA certified gold.
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, Raitt 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.Benjamin, Scott (February 18, 2009). "Bonnie Raitt Will Not Be Broken". CBS News. Retrieved 2012-04-13. Jon Bream (August 22, 2002). "Grand stands: A longtime fairgoer's most unforgettable shows". StarTribune.com. Retrieved 2011-04-07. "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-01. Newman, Melinda (September 3, 2005). "Up Front: Don (Was)". Billboard. Retrieved 24 April 2015. Chris Coleman (January 18, 2008). "Summer Conversations January 2008". ABC New South Wales. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 2011-04-07. "Bonnie Raitt: Slipstream". American Songwriter. Retrieved April 10, 2012. 30 Songs / 30 Days for Half the Sky | Half The Sky. Halftheskymovement.org (August 30, 2012). Retrieved on 2012-09-16. Foy Vance Debut Album Folk Radio "100 Greatest Singers". Rolling Stone. November 23, 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-01. "100 Greatest Guitarists". Rolling Stone. November 23, 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
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.""Bonnie Raitt talks new album,' 25 years of sobriety and Whitney Houston – 04/11/2012 | Entertainment News from". OnTheRedCarpet.com. Retrieved 2014-04-19. "Bonnie Raitt | Biography". Lyricsfreak.com. Retrieved 2014-04-19. "Why Honesty About Hitchens' Addictions Matters". Samefacts.com. December 20, 2011. Retrieved 2014-04-19. "Bonnie Raitt Will Not Be Broken". CBS News. January 15, 2006. Retrieved 2014-04-19. "The Long and Winding Road to Recovery and Renewal". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
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.Cite error: The named reference ontheredcarpet1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Bonnie Raitt and Michael O'Keefe Divorcing". Entertainment Wire (Business Wire). November 9, 1999. Retrieved April 15, 2011. "Left Singing the Blues". People.com. November 29, 1999. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
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."Bonnie Raitt's 2006 tour". Reverb. Retrieved 2011-04-07. Daniel Kreps. ""For What It's Worth," No Nukes Reunite After Thirty Years". NukeFree.org. Retrieved 2011-04-07. "Support Musicians Acting to Stop New Reactors". Nuclear Information and Resource Service. October 12, 2007. Retrieved 2011-04-07. "Raitt to rock against new reactors". Charleston Regional Business Journal. January 13, 2009. Retrieved 2011-04-07.
Raitt's principal touring guitar is a customized Fender Stratocaster.:"Bonnie Raitt: Return of the Blues Baroness". March 9, 2012.