BONNIE RAITT Biography - Musicians


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Name: Bonnie Raitt                                                                 
Born: 8 November 1949 Burbank, California, U.S.                                     
Bonnie Lynn Raitt (born November 8, 1949) is a nine-time Grammy award-winning       
American blues singer-songwriter who was born in Burbank, California, the           
daughter of Broadway musical star John Raitt.                                       
Raitt began playing guitar at an early age, something not a lot of her high         
school girlfriends did. Later she would become famous for her bottleneck-style     
guitar playing. "I had played a little at school and at camp," she later           
recalled in a July 2002 interview.                                                 
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 religious one.                                               
In 1967, Raitt entered Harvard's Radcliffe College as a freshman, majoring in       
African Studies. "My plan was to travel to Tanzania, where President Julius         
Nyerere was creating a government based on democracy and socialism," Raitt         
recalled. "I wanted to help undo the damage that Western colonialism had done to   
native cultures around the world. Cambridge was a hotbed of this kind of           
thinking, and I was thrilled."                                                     
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 through Waterman.       
In the fall of 1970, while opening for Fred McDowell at the Gaslight Cafe in New   
York, a reporter from Newsweek Magazine saw her and 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 eponymous 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, 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.