Tracker Pixel for Entry

Something to talk about with Bonnie Raitt

by Sabrina Hornung | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Music | August 30th, 2017

Raitt on her blues beginnings and activist roots

Rated one of the top 100 guitarists of all time in 2015 and top 100 singers of all time in 2010 by Rolling Stone and with 45 years in the business, Bonnie Raitt is definitely giving ‘em, something to talk about.

High Plains Reader: You found your musical roots at an early age--can you tell us about that? 

Bonnie Raitt: I grew up in a very musical family. My dad was a Broadway leading man and Broadway star. He created the role of Billy Bigelow in ‘Carousel’ in 1945 and starred in several other shows. My mom was an accompanist and musical director. I fell in love with folk music like the rest of my generation did in the late 50s early 60s. I was only 10 but I got my guitar when i was eight or nine.

I taught myself to play and emulate Judy Collins, Joan Baez and all those early folk artists like Pete Seeger. Bob Dylan changed my life as he did for a lot of other people. In the 60s everybody was playing electric Beatles songs and Motown as well as folk songs and blues so I had a really good musical education.

I just played for fun. I had no intention of doing it for a living until I was in college and found out I could get a little bit of pin money opening for people in clubs, and it kind of just mushroomed into a career.

HPR: You opened for quite a few old blues musicians when you were starting out--how did you make that connection? 

BR: I went to college in Cambridge Massachusetts and one of the men who rediscovered the legendary father of the Delta Blues -- Son House, it turned out he lived in Cambridge.

My college friend said “I know where he lives--You wanna go meet Son House?.” So we went and I got to meet Son and his man Dick Waterman who also managed Mississippi Fred McDowell who I became very close friends with and toured with in my early days. It was an incredibly fortuitous afternoon and it changed my life.

In the early 60s a lot of these guys were rediscovered and they played the Newport Folk Festival. I was still in California and was only 14 but I heard a record called “Blues at Newport 63” on Vanguard Records which was Joan Baez’s label and she was my hero--so I bought the record.

That’s where I heard Country Blues so I taught myself how to play almost every song on that record. Little did I know that I would end up meeting some of those people--playing with them and opening for them by the time I was 19.

HPR: What was the most important lesson that you learned from those blues legends? 

BR: There were different lessons from different people. I got to ask them a lot of questions about what it was like to be under Jim Crow segregation, an incredible era of lynching in the south, extreme poverty, and working on a plantation.

To be able to have that firsthand education about what it was like to be in the 1920s, to be a sharecropper and being a black farmer in the south--then trying to make it as a musician trying to play juke joints on the weekends. That was a pretty amazing experience and education.

I watched them play in person. I learned a lot about their technique and their stage performance. I would have to say the greatest gift was hearing the stories of what it was like for them growing up at that time period. It was so different from my own background.

HPR: Is that where you found your activist voice? 

BR: No, I was raised Quaker out in California. My parents were very active in ‘Ban the Bomb’ fighting to get a nuclear test ban treaty, which happened in 1963 and the Quakers were very active in demonstrating against war of all kinds and standing up for civil rights and protecting the environment as well. I was raised in an activist family.

HPR: Can you tell us a bit about the benefit that you did for Standing Rock at Prairie Knights Casino? 

BR: Jackson Browne, Jason Mraz and myself flew in to be part of an all star performance and to visit the 9,000 people -- water protectors who had been camped out there for months and months. It was a very moving experience and we had a wonderful concert and raised a lot of money to help support the tribes. It was an amazing coming together of people and I’m sure it will be ongoing.

That’s one of the reasons we’re doing this benefit in Moorhead is to try to bring attention and raise some funds to be able to support and protect not just the tribal lands but the water and environment.

HPR: What did you find most surprising about the protest camps? 

BR: I think the greatest thing that I didn’t expect was how much the young people were completely uplifted by the process of everyone coming together.

There were over 90 tribes represented, there was school for the little kids that were camping out -- the community spirit of everyone putting aside their personal problems.

There’s a huge suicide rate and there’s a tremendous level of drug and alcohol abuse on the reservation because there are no programs, no jobs. It seems very hopeless. I was moved to tears to hear how the young people had their lives turned around and uplifted; to hear their history and being given a reason to continue. So in many ways, it was a life-saving, life-changing demonstration.

IF YOU GO 

Bonnie Raitt and Indigo Girls: A benefit for Honor the Earth 

Friday, September 1, 7pm (doors 5pm) 

Bluestem Amphitheatre, 801 50th Ave S, Moorhead

Recently in:

FARGO – Early Tuesday morning Captain Andrew Frobig seated himself at his office desk, quickly discovering that the jail count was up. About 76 people had been incarcerated over the long Veterans Day weekend bringing the total…

Best Bets

A Show for Joe

by HPR Staff

Sunday, November 25, 3-10pmSanctuary Event Center, 670 4th Ave. N, FargoA special benefit show for Joe Swegarten and his family. Joe sustained injuries from a hit and run accident this summer. Musicians from across the FM area band…

It's that time of the year when we’ve finally finished up our Halloween candy and started to deck the halls... but who’s rushing the season when it’s the season of the holiday rush? Here at HPR we’ve had shopping and…

The Third Reich—And Making A Country Great AgainI was in first grade in country school on November 9, 1938 when the Nazis, in avenging the assassination of a German embassy official in Paris by a 17-year-old Jewish youth, committed…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

Ah! The holidays are rushing at us, like well like an out of control, careening caravan. Time to start thinking about what to get the chef in the family for Christmas. The days of a new apron or oven mitt are over, or are they?An…

by Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.com With the kickoff of the holiday season (and the weather!) underway, it’s almost time for the annual holiday organ concerts at the Fargo Theatre. The concerts, put on as a partnership…

A long time ago (1977) in a galaxy far, far away (20th Century Fox) there was a film released called “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.” George Lucas introduced the world to his Flash Gordon-inspired space opera featuring a…

by: Melissa Gonzalezmelissam.gonzalez@outlook.comFrom music, to sculpture, to grand scale murals, one local artist is working tirelessly to share his work with the community.The West Acres Mall is currently hosting its fifth…

by Stella Mehlhoffstellamehlhoff@gmail.com“Our mission is to invigorate civic conversation through intimate and transformative storytelling.” This statement posted on Theatre B’s website and tacked to their studio wall in…

Those who have been reading my articles for a while may remember when I interviewed Zachary Tooker about the Level Two Comedy Club at the Radisson in Fargo. While the club may have unfortunately closed, Tooker has not ceased…

Beer Snob

Warm up with a hot toddy

by HPR Contributor

by Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.com Fall is once again upon us. The leaves are turning, gardens have been pulled, and Summer’s heat has waned into Autumnal frosts. Along with the change of seasons comes a change of seasonal flavors.…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

For all intents and purposes, the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party is bankrupt. North Dakota is now a one-party state. That’s sad. Because it wasn’t so long ago that we had an active two-party state government. Now the…