Bonnie Raitt – Why I Sing the Blues, 1974
Produced by Gail Pellett with the Red Tape Collective
Production Company: The Women's Hour - The Red Tape Collective
Presented by: WBCN - Boston

Bonnie Raitt, The Real Paper Interview, Oct. 24, 1973 by Gail Pellett & Kit Rachlis; photo by Jeff Albertson

In this music laden half-hour program, a young Bonnie Raitt, at the early stage of her long and consistent career – ready to release her 3rd album under a new label, Warner Bros.– talks about how she became a blues musician and singer, how she turned anger about women’s experiences into a creative force and ruminates on the waxing and waning of the blues revival.

Never Into Judy Collins, but loved John Lee Hooker

“I grew up in California during the Surf music era but I was into Soul music. When I moved East to go to college (Harvard) I arrived in the midst of the folk music revival.  I was never into Judy Collins, but I loved Mississippi John Hurt.  I really loved John Hammond and John Lee Hooker even better.”   Bonnie began singing in 1969 and 70 while at Harvard playing in the folk clubs around Boston and Cambridge.  “Perhaps my initial success came from the fact that there were very few women blues musicians — really no women blues guitarists — so I fit into a slot.  Kinda like a gimmick.”

“I didn’t want to go back to school and I didn’t want to become a secretary until I really had to.”

The blues revival was the result of a few white middle class guys from the Northeast driving around the South meeting and recording the old blues guys.  “Many of them were unemployed or working at menial jobs and had been ignored and forgotten for years.  Some were practically starving.  I make a living at playing this music now, but it makes me sick that most of these folks are so underappreciated.”  Bonnie has performed with the great Sippie Wallace (“Women Be Wise” at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival; check out the Classic Women Blues radio show on this site) and learnt bottle-neck guitar from many of the old Delta blues musicians.  In her live concerts she always gives credit to those musicians and their music.

Bonnie Raitt Interview, The Real Paper/Ear Book, Oct. 24, 1973; photo by Jeff Albertson

Bonnie is outspoken about her anger as a woman and talks about the importance of turning that anger outward and putting it into music.  This program is rich with both the music that inspired her and her own recordings. We hear John Lee Hooker,  Arthur Big Boy Cruddup, Memphis Minnie, Big Mama Thornton and Sippie Wallace among others.

Bonnie Raitt & Sippie Wallace

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This nine-time Grammy award winner and Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer continues to collect, produce, perform, record and promote the best of songwriters and stay actively engaged with social justice causes. Her website includes information about benefits, nuclear disarmament documentaries and celebrations for Amnesty International.

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3 Responses to “Bonnie Raitt – Why I Sing the Blues, 1974”

  1. cloud vps says:

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  2. KK BluesandJazz says:

    Wow People…. It’s now almost 40 years since this great interview and this great collection of superb blues originals !! I have loved Bonnie since her first recordings and hope to take my daughter to see her this October in Colorado Springs !! Bonnie has stayed true to her mentors ( Sippie Wallace and other strong women) and I truly adore her independence and sometimes her angst …. Her committment is astounding!! Right now I am reading about Skip James and listening
    to Bonnie’s 1974 cover of Mose Allison’s Everybody’s Cryin Mercy… God almighty it just doesn’t get any better than this !!!! See ya in a couple of months Bonnie !!!

  3. Gail Pellett says:

    Hi KK, thanks for taking time on my site and yes, we are truly blessed to have been there from the beginning of Bonnie’s career. Her musical journey — slow and steady, her acknowledgement of where she pays her dues, her choice of songs and compositions, her facility on a bottle-neck guitar and her voice are what keep us truly human under fire! Enjoy the Colorado Springs concert!

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