Tag Archives: Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt Celebrates Love In All Its Guises

9 Apr

Regular readers of TSM will know that I’m a big fan of Bonnie Raitt. She’s not just a talented musician, she’s a great human being, a powerful activist, and a woman who is comfortable being herself. Just when I thought I couldn’t love her any more, I saw the new video for the first single from her forthcoming album Slipstream. (It will be available tomorrow, April 10!)

The song itself is beautiful, a great bluesy reworking of the late Gerry Rafferty’s #12 hit Right Down the Line from 1978. Bonnie is respectful of the original while making it fully her own.

Even more impressive is the video. Filmed at the vacant New Mission Theater in San Francisco, it features Bonnie and her band performing the song while a number of local couples listen, dance, and celebrate (and even kiss). What makes this video perfect is that she includes the full spectrum of love. The couples are all ages and colors, gay and straight. The simple beauty of all these people gathered to enjoy a powerful song of love is astounding.

Enjoy this remarkable video and celebrate the amazing humanity of Bonnie Raitt.

Women’s History Month 2012: Bonnie Raitt

2 Mar

Today we honor and celebrate a talented musician and lifelong activist, the incomparable Bonnie Raitt. Born in California in 1942, Raitt’s parents were both musicians and performers and provided a home full of diverse musical influences. She also developed a strong social conscience early, enrolling in Radcliffe College’s African Studies program.

My plan was to travel to Tanzania, where President Julius Nyerere was creating a government based on democracy and socialism. 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.

While in school, she met and befriended legendary blues promoter Dick Waterman. This sparked her childhood fondness for performing and she quickly found herself enmeshed in the local blues and folk scene. Although she had planned to finish her college education, she had a chance to move to Philadelphia to work with a number of her musical heroes and took it.

While most people are familiar with her Grammy-winning work since 1989′s brilliant Nick Of Time, she had a celebrated muscial career and began releasing critically acclaimed albums in 1971. Her bluesy sound and musical excellence dazzled critics and her core of fans but found little in the way of commercial success. She was eventually dropped by her label, Warner Bros., in a purge that also cost Van Morrison and Arlo Guthrie their contracts. She took the time to regroup and work with her idols, eventually working on a project produced by Don Was. That connection led to the resurgence of her career. Eight albums, nine Grammy’s and a 2000 induction into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame later, she’s still going strong.

Throughout it all, she has been a dedicated activist. Her second album featured a dedication “To the people of North Vietnam…” recognizing the human cost of war. She helped found Musicians United for Safe Energy and has campaigned for numerous causes. It’s quite telling that her website features a prominent ACTIVISM button with numerous links and opportunities for her fans to help make the world a better place.

She also pushes for fairness and equality in her profession. Recognizing that most of the original blues performers were victims of exploitative contracts, she works tirelessly to establish funds for the generation that inspired her. She also recognizes the gender inequities in the music business and has been a vocal part of the Women Who Rock movement. An engaging speaker with a genuine heart, a passionate advocate for social justice, and an amazing musician, Bonnie Raitt is the perfect launch to Women’s History Month on TSM.  Raitt is another woman I think I could cross the road for; her talent and sense of social justice  make me fall in love with her.

Women Who Rock

20 Nov

As part of its Arts Fall Festival, PBS premiered the 90-minute documentary Women Who Rock this week. The program, hosted by the ever delightful Cyndi Lauper, highlights the impact of women on the past, present, and future of rock music. It features interviews with and performances by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Darlene Love, Mavis Staples, Heart, and many more. It’s a powerful program and must-see viewing for anyone interested in modern music history.

Part of the inspiration for the show is an exhibit currently on view at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power. It’s a long-overdue celebration at the Hall, the first of its kind in the 25 years since the first honorees were inducted. Hopefully the exhibit and the program will help underscore the significance and influence of women in what is often viewed as a men’s club. As with so many walks of life, rock women are not the exception, but an overlooked part of the total fabric of music in the last 60 years.

Lauper herself notes the irony of the Hall of Fame being part of this celebration.

I always have been saying [the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame] should include women. I was in Cleveland and I took my cousin’s son to see it, because he wanted to see it, and they asked if I wanted a VIP tour and I said “Not really, because you don’t really include women in your curation here.” There’s hardly any women, and I feel funny walking this kid around, explaining who the women were who were around at the time.

The Hall certainly has honored many important women, including Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, The Supremes, Blondie, Mahalia Jackson, writer Cynthia Weil, and many more. Sadly, however, only 11% of the inductees are women or even groups that include women. Given that there are 16 men who have been inducted twice or more (as members of groups and as solo performers), there certainly seems to be room for more inclusion.

The Hall can’t please everyone, of course, and the importance of various performers has a highly subjective quality. While the criteria are laudably broad, however, and commercial appeal or classic rock credibility are clearly not the only factors, it’s hard to credit some of the glaring omissions. Besides our Cyndi, where are Joan Baez, Pat Benatar, Mother Maybelle Carter, Cher, Sandy Denny, Eurythmics, The 5th Dimension, Connie Francis, Carole King, Patti LaBelle, The Mekons, Olivia Newton-John, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon, Nina Simone, Dionne Warwick, X, or Young Marble Giants to name a few diverse examples?

This is especially troubling when one considers that only five of the 28 inductees from the past three years are women (including ABBA and two male-female songwriting pairs). Five of the 15 nominees for 2012 are women: Heart, Joan Jett (and the Blackhearts), Chaka Khan (with Rufus), Laura Nyro, and Donna Summer. Let’s see how they fare.

As in every other field, women have made major contributions. From Dolly Parton’s Just Because I’m A Woman to P!nk’s Stupid Girls, from Aretha Franklin’s Respect to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way: as singers, songwriters, musicians, businesspeople, and carriers of message through music, women who rock matter. Let’s be certain to celebrate them.

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