Birth name: Bonnie Raitt
Birthplace: Burbank, California
November 8, 1949 –
Years Active: 1969 – Present
Grammy award winning vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, Bonnie Lynn Raitt was born in Burbank, California. The musician and activist is the daughter of pianist Marge Goddard and acclaimed theater actor John Raitt. Raitt was given the gift of a guitar at age 8 and felt drawn to the Blues. After high school, Raitt moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where she studied at Harvard/Radcliffe in Cambridge, majoring in Social Relations and African Studies. Having immersed herself in the cultural and political movements of the late 1960s in college, after graduation Raitt hoped to relocate to the newly independent East African nation of Tanzania, which had been a British colony. “My plan was to travel to Tanzania, where President Julius Nyerere was creating a government based on democracy…I wanted to help undo the damage that Western colonialism had done to native cultures around the world.” Before she’d realized that plan or completed her degree, Bonnie Raitt’s love of the Blues and interest in the slide guitar would set her on another path. Raitt left college to commit to music full-time and found herself opening for Blues masters including Mississsippi Fred McDowell, Sippie Wallace, Son House, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, all of whom she credits as her teachers.
Bonnie Raitt, her debut album on Warner Bros. released in 1971, established a distinctive hallmark style that combined Blues with moving songs by contemporary writers that would define a career that spans five decades. Besides the Blues, Bonnie Raitt’s work spans multiple genres including Folk, Americana, and Rock and Roll. Amongst Raitt’s early recordings now considered a classic is her interpretation of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.” A loyal fanbase supported her as Raitt star rose and she released albums over the next couple of decades, but she faced a difficult period in the 1980s that included being dropped by her label and struggling with alcohol addiction. The 1980s ended with a bang when Raitt joined forces with producer Don Was for her comeback album Nick of Time. The 1989 Capitol Records release hit number 1 on the Billboard 200. Nick of Time was critically acclaimed and eventually went platinum, catapulting Bonnie Raitt into superstardom. Nick of Time garnered Raitt’s first Grammy awards including Album of the Year, Best Rock Performance, Female, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. That year, she also won the Grammy for Best Tradition Blues Recording for her collaboration with Blues master John Lee Hooker on his album, The Healer. Amongst her most important recordings is the ballad “I Can’t Make You Love Me” which appeared on Raitt’s Luck of the Draw. The song was covered by Prince on Emancipation and became a consistent feature of his performances.
In keeping with her activist beginnings, Bonnie Raitt has been active in social causes throughout her career as a recording artist. She campaigned against the civil war in Nicaragua, performed at the 1980 No Nukes concert, Farm Aid in 1985, has worked for environmental protection, for the rights of women and Native Americans. A co-founder of MUSE (Musicians for Safe Energy), Bonnie Raitt was also one of the Artists United Against Apartheid featured on the “Sun City” recording organized by Steven Van Zandt. In 1988, Raitt co-founded the Rhythm and Blues Foundation which advocates for improved royalties, compensation and recognition for a generation of R&B pioneers who laid the foundation of American popular music.
Bonnie Raitt is a ten-time Grammy winner, was named by Rolling Stone as one of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” and one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. In addition to several gold albums, Raitt’s Luck of the Draw, Nick of Time and Longing in Their Hearts are each certified multi-platinum with Nick of Time selling over 7 million copies. Among the highlights of her career were duets with Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Tony Bennett and her father, John Raitt. Bonnie Raitt has released seventeen albums and plays a Fender Stratocaster that she has nicknamed Brownie. She was the first woman to have a signature Fender line. In 2000, Bonnie Raitt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.