Bonnie Raitt is a blues singer and guitarist, who came up in the 1970s and achieved mainstream recognition for her distinctive voice and prolific guitar style. B.B. King—who she worked with multiple times during her career—once called her the “best damn slide player working today”; high praise, coming from “the King of Blues”, himself.
So, how did a musician best associated with beatniks and the Laurel Canyon end up winning “Song of the Year” in 2023, winning against more timely musicians, like Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and Beyonce?
Bonnie Raitt would like that question cleared up, herself. “Oh, my God,” she announced, after being called to the stage by First Lady, Jill Biden. “I’m so surprised, I don’t know what to say.”
Raitt’s winning son, “Just Like That”, follows the story of a man who receives a heart transplant and the mother of the man who donated the heart. Raitt touched on the subject in her acceptance speech.
“I was so inspired for this song by the incredible story of the love and the grace and the generosity of someone that donates their beloved’s organs to help another person live and this story was so simple and so beautiful for these times.”
This high point in Raitt’s career is a long-time coming. Raitt’s early success was relatively short-lived. After a well-received, self-titled debut in 1971, Raitt’s career kept at a slow and solid pace, until her 1977 break-out rendition of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” put her on the map.
After that, Raitt took to drugs and alcohol, which dulled her career. Luckily, fellow musicians were willing to help her. Raitt told Rolling Stone and Audacity that Stevie Ray Vaughn and Prince were instrumental in her recovery.
“When we toured together it was quite apparent that we were pushing the fun button. I was 37 and chunky (and) a bunch of friends of mine were getting sober, and so did Stevie Ray. When I saw him play sober, I knew it was time to grow up.”
“I was having a rough time… and then Prince called up and said, ‘let’s do some stuff together. I’ll put you on Paisley Park.’ And I said, ‘you know what, if we make a video together, I better drop some weight.’ So [I quit drinking] to lose weight and I just loved it. I just went right to hanging out with a bunch of musicians who had gotten sober… they looked better, felt better, played better.”