|One of the most critically admired
yet commercially ignored white R&B singers in the history of popular
music, Bonnie Raitt only achieved the success and respect she had so
obviously deserved with her tenth album, almost 20 years after her
recording debut. The daughter of Broadway star John Raitt (of Carousel
and The Pajama Game fame), Bonnie Raitt (born 1949) was first captivated
by the blues and began learning guitar at the age of 12.
After dropping out of college in 1969, she began playing on the US folk and blues circuit, turning heads due to her ability - almost unique in a white female - to play credible bottleneck guitar. She became friendly with many of the surviving blues legends, including Howlin' Wolf, Mississippi Fred McDowell and particularly Sippie Wallace, with whom she later recorded.
After paying her dues in clubs, she signed with a major record label in 1971,when she released her eponymous debut album which included both contemporary songs by Stephen Stills and Paul Siebel and a number of blues covers, plus two self-penned originals. Backed largely by R&B musicians who normally worked with producer Willie Murphy, Raitt was somewhat sold short by the album. as became clear with the release of 1972's greatly improved "Give it up" album, which made the US chart and featured mainly white rock players and superb songs written by under-appreciated songwriters like Eric Kaz and Jackson Browne, plus three originals and several R&B covers.
She went on to release seven more albums ("Takin' my Time" (1973),"Streetlights" (1974), "Home Plate" (1975), "Sweet Forgiveness" (1977), "The Glow" (1979), "Green Light"(1982) and "Nine Lives" (1986) ). 1989's "Nick of Time" found Raitt on a different record label after 18 years with one company, and with production by Don Was, Raitt finally found herself receiving the commercial rewards (and Grammy Awards) her mainly excellent body of work had always deserved.
1990 saw her winning another Grammy awards for her work on John Lee Hooker's "The Healer" album, which was to some extent a return to the roots for two truly great artists from different generations. Chart positions are largely irrelevant in Bonnie Raitt's case, but anyone who enjoys great music is missing something should they decide to ignore this supremely tasteful and utterly sincere artist.
Bonnie Raitt & B.B. King