Folk legend Bonnie Raitt did the seemingly impossible in the beginning of 2023. She managed to beat out mainstream contenders like Harry Styles, Lizzo, Steve Lacy, Taylor Swift, and even Beyoncé in the coveted Song of the Year category at the 65th Grammy Awards. For those who know Raitt well or have even grown up with her music, the win feels deserved and overdue. But for younger music lovers scratching their heads wondering who Bonnie Raitt is and why she got the spotlight over younger, more popular artists...allow us to use this Top 10 list to educate you.
Bonnie Raitt was born on November 8, 1949, in Burbank, California. Her mother, Marge Goddard (née Haydock), was a pianist, while her father, John Raitt, was an actor in musical productions – so we guess you could say music easily ran in Bonnie's genes. She initially learned how to play music on a Stella guitar, which she received as a Christmas gift at the age of eight. Raitt did not take lessons, and instead took influence from the American folk music revival of the 1950s. She was also influenced by the beatnik movement, stating: "It represented my whole belief ... I'd grow my hair real long so I looked like a beatnik." She was a regular at folk festivals and jam sessions at New York's Gaslight Cafe.
After being spotted by a reporter from Newsweek, Raitt was signed to Warner Bros. and soon released her debut album, Bonnie Raitt, in 1971. Despite rave reviews, the record didn't quite land in the mainstream due to the fact few women in popular music had strong reputations as guitarists during the time. In 1989, after several years of limited commercial success, Raitt had a major hit with her tenth studio album Nick of Time. The album reached #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. It has since been selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry. Her following two albums, Luck of the Draw (1991) and Longing in Their Hearts (1994), were multi-million sellers and generated several hit singles. She was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
For those who love Bonnie Raitt, we hope this Top 10 list of her best songs gets your approval! And for those learning about her, we hope the tracks below make you understand why Graeme Connors once said, "Bonnie Raitt does something with a lyric no one else can do; she bends it and twists it right into your heart." Without further ado, here's Bonnie's best work.
10. "Love Me Like a Man"
Raitt's 1972 album Give It Up helped put her on the map, and our favorite track on that record has to go to the blues-heavy "Love Me Like a Man." This track has some terrific word play and goes down like medicine if you're a woman tired of the shenanigans the men you date pull.
This masculine diss track was originally written by Chris Smither, but covered by Raitt in her own country style. The entire section, "They all want me to rock them / Like my back ain't got no bone / I want a man to rock me / Like my back bone was his own," is enough reason for us to put this song on our list. Raitt may not have wrote it, but she really picked a great song to make her own.
9. "Made Up Mind"
Besides "Just Like That," Bonnie had this standout song from her 2022 album! "Made Up Mind" proves that Raitt can still pen a good soft rock song, and we can't help but think of seashores and gentle breezes when listening to this calm track.
Ultimately, "Made Up Mind" is a kind ode to making firm decisions with your brain. Raitt lists specific made-up-mind situations in the chorus. "The quiet behind a slamming door / The break of a heart that won't break no more / Get-away wheels in a straight line / Serenade of a made up mind," she sings. We enjoy the poetic imagery this song evokes, as well as the inner peace it gives us while listening.
8. "Thank You"
One of Bonnie Raitt's earliest tunes. This piano-heavy track may not have Raitt's signature folk rock style down pat yet, but it's a fantastic early 70s song in its own right. If "Thank You" were made today, it would totally fit in with the popular wave of lo-fi, alternative, and indie music listened to by the youths.
Lyrically, "Thank You" isn't too deep. It's a big thank you note to a lover who's shown wonder to Raitt's life. We know Raitt would go on to write bigger and bolder hits, but we had to include this ditty because it's just too dang cute. Also, this song is not to be confused with Raitt's track "I Thank You," which she released in 1979.
7. "Thing Called Love"
From Raitt's album Nick of Time, "Thing Called Love" is a fun, flirty, country rocker written (and originally performed by) John Hiatt. Bonnie's cover was released in 1989, and the way she powerfully vocalizes on this thing makes us feel like this song belonged to her all along.
Over the years, Hiatt and Raitt have performed the song together: like at their memorable 2012 Farm Aid performance. Simply put, Raitt's rendition of "Thing Called Love" is adorable, dancy, and even a bit steamy. There's not much else we can say here except for the fact that if you haven't listened to it, you need to do so immediately. And yes, if you're wondering, that is actor Dennis Quaid Bonnie is seen locking eyes with in the song's music video.
Bonnie Raitt is truly in her element when she releases tunes that are more on the rock side. "Runaway" was released in 1977 as part of her album Sweet Forgiveness, but sounds like it came straight from the 90s.
Originally a hit for Del Shannon in 1961, “Runaway” was Bonnie Raitt’s first success on the Billboard Singles chart. The cover peaked at #57 on the chart after 12 weeks. Two years later, Raitt's performance of the song at the “No Nukes” concert at Madison Square Garden would be featured as a highlight in the accompanying film and soundtrack. Raitt joined legends like Elvis Presley, Small Faces, The Misfits, and Avenged Sevenfold in covering the beloved track.
5. "Just Like That"
That's right – we're ranking Bonnie Raitt's most recent Grammy-winning hit right in the middle! Don't get us wrong: it's a fantastic song and one of the strongest in her career. But knowing Raitt's entire discography, there are plenty more songs in her catalogue that we feel deserved Grammys as well.
Anyway, "Just Like That" has been in the spotlight lately due to its tear-inducing story. The song is a tribute to a tale Raitt heard on the news about a man whose life was saved by a heart transplant visiting the mother of the deceased organ donor. Raitt sings from the perspective of the mother. She lays his head upon the man's chest, and feels like she is with her son again.
Raitt spoke to American Songwriter about the true story that inspired the song. "I just lost it," she said of the moment the man let the mother hear her late son’s heart in his chest. "It was the most moving and surprising thing. I wasn’t expecting it. I vowed right then that I wanted to write a song about what that would take."
4. "Angel from Montgomery"
Originally written and performed by John Prine, "Angel from Montgomery" is about a middle-aged woman who feels older than she is. There are some differences in Raitt's cover of the song compared to Prine's version. Raitt's rendition is less keys-heavy and more country in sound. Raitt's version also replaces the lyrics “If dreams were lightening, thunder were desire...” with "If dreams were thunder / And lightning was desire." And of course, there's the main difference that Raitt is a female vocalist and was around 25 when she released this track. Not quite the demographic of your typical middle-aged mom, but old enough to relate!
This has been a fan favorite in Raitt's discography because of the new life she gave to this already-loved Prine song. Not only does it have folksy swagger, but that classic 70s twang to it. "Angel from Montgomery" was covered by several artists before Raitt – and has been done by many more since – but it's Raitt's version that brought the ballad to the mainstream.
3. "Nick of Time"
For a song with a great groove, "Nick of Time" sure has a gloomy message behind it. It details the sadness Raitt's friend feels as she worries about running out of time to have a child. Then, Raitt makes a sad remark about her parents and herself getting older. "I see my folks are getting on / And I watch their bodies change / I know they see the same in me / And it makes us both feel strange," she croons. The poignant – and painfully relatable – statements definitely make you think about the inevitability of time passing too quickly.
Fortunately, "Nick of Time" ends on a hopeful note. In the third verse and final chorus, Raitt tenderly describes a kind soul and finding "love in the nick of time." We think it's a good place to leave the song because it describes a powerful truth: time may wear everything down and may force us to make tough choices, but so long as we have love, we won't get nicked so hard.
2. "Something to Talk About"
We don't know what it is about this song, but it just sounds like playful summer fun to us. And in a sense, that's what this song is all about: having fun and playing games with gossipy people. Released in 1991, "Something to Talk About" remains one of Bonnie Raitt's highest-charting songs, reaching #12 on the Billboard Rock chart.
At its core, "Something to Talk About" is a romantic slow jam about two friends who are so close, the people around them tell rumors about them being together. Raitt dares her companion to really give them something to talk about, while also admitting that she does have romantic feelings for her pal. Our favorite part of this song is the explosive bridge, where Raitt channels a mesh of powerful vocals, guitar riffs, and a key change to get her point across.
1. "I Can't Make You Love Me"
One of the greatest ballads ever made? We think so. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is the third song on Bonnie Raitt’s Grammy-winning 1991 LP, Luck of the Draw. The song was written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin and sat on the Billboard Hot 100 for 20 weeks, peaking at #18. The lyrics are sung from the perspective of someone experiencing unrequited, one-sided love, and it has inspired stirring covers from Adele, Bon Iver, George Michael, Prince, and many others. It's maybe the most relatable song about one-sided love there is.
The inspiration for this smooth, mellow song actually came from a pretty crazy, dark place. According to co-songwriter Mike Reid, the idea for the song came into his head after he read an article in a Nashville newspaper. It was about a man on trial for shooting up his girlfriend’s car while drunk. The judge asked why he had done it, and the man responded with, “I learned, Your Honor, that you can’t make a woman love you if she don’t.” The phrase stuck with Reid and ended up serving as the inspiration for the song’s chorus. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. We're just happy Bonnie and her team were able to turn something icky into something so hauntingly beautiful.
Check out our selection of free stations streaming Bonnie Raitt music at Live365.com.
Rather listen on our app? Download the Live365 app on iOS or Android. Ready to start your own station? Contact one of our Product Consultants or visit our website today. Keep up with the latest news by following us on Facebook (Live365 (Official) and Live365 Broadcasting) and Twitter (@Live365 and @Broadcast365)!