After releasing her first album in seven years, earthy blues singer, songwriter, and slide guitarist Bonnie Raitt is back. Nine-time Grammy winning artist Raitt started recording in the 1970s and has just released her newest album, Slipstream. The National Museum of Women in the Arts will honor Raitt, among more than 70 other female vocalists and performers, in the upcoming exhibition Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power, on view at NMWA September 7, 2012–January 6, 2013. On display will be Raitt’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech, a fan T-shirt, a poster, a pair of her boots, a vest, and one of her famous Dobro guitars.
As the daughter of accomplished pianist Marge Goddard and Broadway musical star John Raitt, Bonnie Raitt had music in her genes. Born in 1949 in Burbank, California, Raitt was given her first guitar at age eight, a $25 Stella from Sears. By the time she got to high school, she had developed her famous slide guitar technique and was singing the blues, inspired by Muddy Waters, Sippie Wallace, and Mississippi Fred McDowell. In fall 1967, Raitt moved east to attend Radcliffe College at Harvard, where she met established blues promoter Dick Waterman. Eventually, she dropped out of school to pursue her musical career and began playing gigs in New York. She was offered a contract with Warner Brothers, and released her debut album, Bonnie Raitt, shortly afterward.
Her success has been immense—in 1990, she won four Grammy Awards, and she has recorded hit songs such as “Something to Talk About” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Raitt is listed as one of Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Singers and in 2000, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She has long combined her starpower with her activist interests—since the mid-’70s, she has played concerts to bring attention to issues surrounding social justice, energy use, mining, and natural resource protection. Through the ups and downs of her life, Raitt has found release in the blues, and her performances reflect this. This 62-year-old, red-haired rocker proves that age is only a number and passion and skill are what truly matter.
—Kristie Landing is the publications and communications intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.