On November 8, 1949, Bonnie Raitt was born in Burbank, CA. Thanks to her bohemian upbringing and natural musical talent, Raitt would grow up to be a renowned artist and activist. Turning 68 today, Raitt is still belting out her blues-infused tunes, rocking her slide guitar and using her empowered female voice to support progressive causes.
Raised a Quaker by her legendary Broadway actor father and pianist mother, Raitt had an early interest in social activism and music. At eight years old, she started playing guitar. After graduating high school, she headed to the East Coast to attend Radcliffe College in Cambridge, MA. In college, she joined the growing antiwar and civil rights movements. Raitt also became a regular in the Boston folk and blues club circuit, showcasing her vocal prowess and bottleneck guitar playing skills. It was rare for a woman to play the slide guitar, so she stood out on stage. When longtime blues manager Dick Waterman signed her, she started opening for blues legends like Howlin’ Wolf. These performances put her further in the spotlight and landed her a record contract with Warner Bros.
Her first releases, including her self-titled debut album in 1971, generated a lot of buzz among critics. However, Raitt did not have a hit song until her cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” from her sixth album, “Sweet Forgiveness” (1977). Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, she continued to release music, tour and play in hundreds of benefits to raise money for causes dear to her heart, including the environment, social justice and human rights. She was a founding member of MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) that produced epic concerts and albums in an effort to protect the environment.
Raitt finally achieved commercial success with her 1989 album, “Nick of Time.” On the title track, she sings about the relatable experience of getting older (“I see my folks are getting on/And I watch their bodies change”), almost giving up hope (”Just when I thought I had enough”) and then finding “love in the nick of time.” Also, who can’t forget her flirty music video with Dennis Quaid for “Thing Called Love”? The album won Bonnie Raitt three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, in 1990 and sold four million copies.
Her next Grammy-winning album, “Luck of the Draw,” in 1991 sold more than eight million copies, thanks to hits like “Something to Talk About” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” The multitalented blues, rock, R&B, and pop artist continues to put out critically acclaimed and popular albums, including “Long in Their Hearts” (1994), “Fundamental” (1998), “Silver Lining” (2002), and “Bonnie Raitt and Friends” (2006). Acknowledging her important influence as an artist, Raitt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
Raitt put out her 20th album, “Dig In Deep,” last year and just wrapped up her tour. Staying true to her dedication to philanthropy, she partnered with the Guacamole Fund, which sold seats for each show to raise money to benefit local non-profit organizations.
In a recent interview, when asked if she planned on retiring, Raitt shared, “I love this, I don’t want to give it up. My dad did it until he was 86, look at B.B. [King], and Tony Bennett. I have no interest in retiring.” We want you to keep going, too! Happy Birthday, Bonnie Raitt. Keep on rocking!