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Bonnie Raitt biography

Born: November 8, 1949

An accomplished slide guitarist and blues singer/songwriter, Bonnie Raitt incongruously dropped out of an Ivy League college to work as an itinerant blues musician. Her considerable skill made an impression on Boston’s blues scene, and she quickly won the respect of her peers, later playing with blues legends Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, Muddy Waters, and others. Raitt began recording to critical acclaim in the early seventies, mixing blues with R&B, pop, jazz and New Orleans influences and garnering a loyal cult following. Like her female predecessors, her music often features a gender-specific spin on the blues; her original interpretation of Chris Smither’s “Love Me Like a Man” contains a clever response to Muddy Waters’s “Rock Me,” and her rendition of Sippie Wallace’s “Women Be Wise” likewise offers a refreshing female perspective. In the eighties Raitt’s career slowed somewhat until the release of the aptly-titled Nick of Time in 1989, at which point, in the words of blues historian Robert Santelli, she “pulled off one of the greatest career turnarounds in modern pop history.”* Raitt received six Grammy awards for the album, and followed it up with another Grammy-winner in 1992. She continues to record and tour.

Essential listening: “Love Me Like a Man,” “Give It Up or Let Me Go,” “Women Be Wise,” “Walking Blues,” “Feeling of Falling”

* Santelli, Robert. The Big Book of Blues. New York: Penguin Books, 1993.