When you think of musicians who have had fifty-year careers, Bonnie Raitt probably isn’t the first one that pops into your mind. Yet here we are, in 2021, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of her premier, self-titled album.
Her first album was a surprise. The daughter of musicians, including Broadway musical star father John, she spent her pre-recording musical years honing her craft in coffee houses, as a folkie. No one would have guessed that she would debut with a record mostly filled with covers from old Blues artists like Robert Johnson and Sippie Wallace. She even used Blues harmonica legend, Junior Wells, to add to the authenticity of the record.
But fifty years after its release, does the album hold up? Is this the album I’m going to when I want to hear her music? The answer is probably not.
Out of the eleven songs on the album, the one that stuck with me is the classic standard “Since I Fell For You.” It’s a song that’s been covered by artists ranging from Dinah Washington and Barbra Streisand to Willie Nelson and Charlie Rich. I can imagine her father’s eyes lighting up when he heard his daughter’s version.
It’s been a remarkable musical journey for Bonnie Raitt. She struggled through years of personal and professional disappointments. It was more than a pleasant surprise when she finally had commercial success with the album “Nick of Time. Not many artists can say that the second half of their career is more successful than the first. Yet with Bonnie Raitt, we’re here and there are no signs of it stopping anytime soon.
So in 2021, we celebrate fifty years of the recorded music of Bonnie Raitt. Check out that first album. It’s not the her best and certainly not my favorite from her extensive catalog, but it does set the stage of what is to come…and that’s fifty years and seventeen albums of magical music.