NPR logo Bonnie Raitt Brings the Blues to NPR

Bonnie Raitt Brings the Blues to NPR

Bonnie Raitt stopped by for a live performance in NPR's Studio 4A. Sam Jones hide caption

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Sam Jones

I was so bogged down in my extensive blog duties that I had to turn down an invite to listen in on Neal Conan's interview with Bonnie Raitt and band this afternoon here at 635 Mass. Ave. So I asked NPR Washington Editor Ron Elving to be my eyes and ears. Must warn you that he is an avowed Raitt fan:

The legendary singer/guitarist Bonnie Raitt, now touring to promote her 18th album (Souls Alike), stopped in for a "performance chat" with Talk of the Nation Host Neal Conan and a studio audience in NPR's Studio 4A. On hand with the nine-time Grammy Award winner was the four-piece band that's featured on the new album and that's been her touring unit since 2000 (Jon Cleary on keyboards, James "Hutch" Hutchinson on bass, Ricky Fataar on drums and George Marinelli on guitars). Half of the ensemble has been with her since the 1980s.

Raitt took questions from admiring callers, interspersed with a mix of tunes from the new album and from as far back as her first release on Warner Brothers in 1971 ("Women Be Wise," by blueswoman Sippie Wallace). The new album selections included an eerie "God Was in the Water" and a mournful "I Don't Want Anything to Change," the latest addition to Raitt's catalog of heartbreakers.

Still vibrant and personable after more than three decades of performing and touring, Raitt jokes about the strains and temptations: "The music business works at night, and when you get off at 4:00 a.m. you're not going to the health club." She also talked of own her declaration of independence from drugs and alcohol more than 15 years ago and her preferred means of "keeping it together" since then.

Responding to another listener question, Raitt said her main inspirations as a child had been her father (Broadway singer John Raitt) and folk icon Joan Baez. Long known for her own outspoken politics (she dedicated her first album to the people of North Vietnam), Raitt said she empathized with the Dixie Chicks and the abuse the country trio had endured since speaking out against the Iraq war.

Update: Audio from Bonnie Raitt's performance at NPR is now available.