Archive for Saturday, May 25, 2002

Singer Bonnie Raitt is enjoying the ‘Silver Lining’

May 25, 2002

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— Although she's been doing it for more than 30 years, Bonnie Raitt hasn't gotten tired of climbing on the tour bus.

"I never stop getting excited and it doesn't wear on me," an enthusiastic Raitt said in a telephone interview. The singer-guitarist, whose music runs the gamut of blues, R&B;, pop and rock, is touring the country through mid-June.

"I think traveling in a bus with a bunch of people is as close as you can get to a moving frat house and get away with it," she said.

Raitt was a critical and cult favorite in the '70s; a slide guitarist with a taste for the blues, but little commercial success. By the '90s, she was a chart-topping, award-winning artist whose songs got heavy rotation on pop and adult contemporary radio stations.

The album "Nick of Time" brought Raitt three Grammys in 1990 including best album. She also shared the traditional blues Grammy with John Lee Hooker for the "I'm in the Mood" track on his "The Healer" album.

She's since added five more Grammys to her collection, including the female pop vocal award in 1992 for her hit "Something to Talk About."

Earlier this year, the 52-year-old received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her father, veteran Broadway singer John Raitt, attended the ceremony.

Raitt, whose new album is "Silver Lining," was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

Do you think your new album will be a commercial success?

I feel really cocky well, maybe not cocky, but confident. I feel really good about my core audience. They have been so supportive of me, whether or not I have singles that cross over to Britney Spears land. It is definitely more difficult to get new music played by older artists. That's just the way the business works. The focus is on turnover and million-selling younger acts.

There's a strong strain of African music on the album. How did you become interested in that music?

You know, Delta blues actually came from that part of the world, so there are parts of this music that are the same thing that appealed to me about blues. There's also amazing musicality. For somebody who's been playing as wide a berth of music as I have for this long, it's natural for me to go off into these other directions, because you can't just keep repeating yourself. It's a wonderful thing to experience how accessible world music is in America right now.

I went to Mali in 2000. I went for a three-week musical safari organized by a Public Radio International Afro-pop program. ... That was a great gift and an eye-opener, to actually visit the villages and the towns and the cities where this music originated.

How did being raised as a Quaker influence your music?

They were the ones that wouldn't take their hats off to the king. They were persecuted in England and they were pacifists, so they're always going to be on the peacenik and radical side. ... Quakers are traditionally the ones on the side of the civil rights-human rights movement, which fits in with my politics. I grew up with a tradition of Pete Seeger and Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. The protest movement was where I got my interest in guitar.

Would you have a chance at success if you were starting out today?

It would be much, much more difficult. But I would probably be more of a maverick like a Lucinda Williams or an Ani DiFranco, and just do it outside of the system. Because I don't really care whether I have a mansion and No. 1 record. I'm doing this because I love music and I like the lifestyle, and like to be able to effect change with the clout that I have. I have a fan base that I can talk to about stuff I think is important, whether it's music or politics.

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