Rhinofy-Semi-Obscure Bonnie Raitt

1. "I Ain’t Blue"

I bought "Give It Up" first. And one of the great crimes of the digital era is that the original, faster version of "Too Long At The Fair" has been lost to vinyl, that’s the only place it appears, and it’s what hooked me on Ms. Raitt. And for a long time, "Give It Up" was my favorite, but it’s been eclipsed by "Luck Of The Draw", how rare is it that an artist tops herself twenty years on? But having purchased "Give It Up", having become addicted, dropping the needle on the second side every day before going skiing at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, hearing "Too Long At The Fair" bleed into "Under The Falling Sky", pulling on my Duofolds and being out the door before "You Told Me Baby" was over, I had to buy the very first album, "Bonnie Raitt", which has been completely forgotten. Oh, you hear her cover of "Bluebird" every once in a while, but you never hear "I Ain’t Blue".

Recorded live to four track, it seems like Bonnie’s sitting in a house during the middle of winter, heat on, mind churning, thinking about what has been and what still might be. There’s hope and despair, all in one damn record, just like life.

My favorite verse leads with:

Sit around the house
Readin’ magazines
All the time thinkin’ ’bout those same sweet dreams

EUREKA! This encapsulates my life in the seventies, prior to the Internet, at home, reading magazines, dreaming of the life that could be.

Meanwhile, due to the magic of Spotify, we can hear the rendition by the original writers, "Spider" John Koerner and Willie Murphy. Hang in there, at first the track sounds completely different, but then twenty seconds in there’s a swagger, you hear the Raitt cover.

2. "Nothing Seems To Matter"

If people hearken back to "Give It Up", they reference "Love Me Like A Man" and "Love Has No Pride", no one mentions the aforementioned second side burner "You Told Me Baby" and this, both of which were written by Ms. Raitt.

Seems like such a long time since I held you in my arms
And felt you close and warm beside me
Another night is getting late and I’m alone with just the ache
And the memory of you beside me

Whew! When you’ve lived together, a long time is a night or two, a couple of weeks seems an eternity.

Last time I saw you
There was nothing we could say
We knew it was time for a change
A time to think you said that night
And I lied and said all right
I left you in the morning
I watched you in the window
And Mexico will never be the same

Never agree. State your piece. You think you’re calling their bluff, but by nodding your head and saying yes you’re oftentimes ending the relationship. And the memory of that moment will be etched in your brain forever, chances are you’ll never be able to return to those haunts again, it’s just too painful.

3. "That Song About The Midway"

"Takin My Time" was a step in the wrong direction, the album was a bit too polished. "Streetlights" was a stake in the heart. A turn-off to all those who’d embraced the rootsiness, the earthiness of Bonnie Raitt. Produced by Jerry Ragavoy in a stab for commercial success, "Streetlights" was truly slick. And to a great degree ignored. Bonnie recovered a bit, but not really, until after ultimately being dropped by Warner she returned to her rootsy values, her honesty, and broke through with "Nick Of Time".

But this opening cut on "Streetlights" is exquisite. Unknown to many since the original was on an early Joni Mitchell album released before her massive success, it was smooth and wistful without being almost creepy, like Joni’s original.

Still check out Joni’s take. It sounds like a lone waif telling her tale in a coffee shop light years from the metropolis. Joni’s still in love. But whatever happened between them eliminates a chance for a life together. She’s soldiering on, but she still thinks of him.

The longer you listen, the more you’ll prefer Joni’s version. But credit Bonnie with the introduction, she plucked this song from obscurity and kept it alive, because as poorly-received as "Streetlights" was…"Clouds" was positively obscure.

4. "Two Lives"

Ever broken up?

I’m not talking high school and I’m not talking celebrity, where they just jump into bed with someone else. I’m talking about a long term connection that got to the point where in order to survive you had to take different tracks but you still shared so much.

Then you’ll understand this song:

Someone said that time would ease the pain
Of two lives love has torn apart
But I believe whoever wrote that song
Never had a broken heart

Time does heal. But connections are akin to carbon dating, the pain fades in half lives, but never really goes away.

5. "My First Night Alone Without You"

How many times have I played this after a breakup?

They were right next to you night after night and then…the bed’s too big without them.

I’ve been sitting learning how to read
‘Cause back in school I never liked to
It’s just one of those little things I’m gonna need
As I put my life together, baby, without you

You’re starting over. And it’s so painful. But you’d better begin.

6. "Keep This Heart In Mind"

And after two records with Paul Rothchild, which were less slick than the one with Jerry Ragavoy, Bonnie aligned with Peter Asher, who gave her the classic L.A. album, only in this case, hers didn’t hit, "The Glow" didn’t make her a star. So in a last ditch effort to get it right, to return to the spontaneity and earthiness of her earlier material, Bonnie went to work with her boyfriend Rob Fraboni and made "Green Light", which was too old school to be new wave and too rough to be part of the SoCal sound. But "Green Light" rocks out with this opener and continues to surprise along the way. A minor work, "Green Light" is the kind of album you spin reluctantly and then get hooked on and play again and again. It’s made just for you, it’s not about turning others on to it, just spinning it as you clean the house, go on with your everyday life.

7. "River Of Tears"

This positively SWINGS! The groove is pure sex.

I guess you got me in a sentimental mood

You’re thinking about what was and despite the contrary nature of the lyrics, you’re thinking about what still could be. You want sex. You want to hold them, you want to be inside them, you want skin on skin.

And "River Of Tears" sounds like it.

8. "I Can’t Help Myself"


So simple, yet so right.

And it is about sound, not video, not something you see.

The track starts with the chorus and then…

The verses are such that you believe Bonnie’s your best friend, that she’s come through your front door to tell you her story, it’s so INTIMATE!

9. "One Part Be My Lover"

And those are the Warner albums. There was one more, "Nine Lives", but it had little impact and demands little attention today.

But then Bonnie broke through with "Nick Of Time" and got all those Grammys and the subsequent "Luck Of The Draw" was almost as successful, but the tracks that got all the airplay, the ones people remember, are not the ones that hit me and still stick with me.

I had this relationship. She moved out but still wanted to be together.

Life’s a complicated journey and whenever you enter a new chapter you believe someone’s been there before, but your friends are clueless.

And then you hear a record.

And it’s all there.

10. "Luck Of The Draw"

Hope. That’s what keeps you going.

And sometimes the flame flickers. You want to give up. Go back to your hometown. Or if that’s not an option, maybe commit suicide. You’ve bet everything, done your best…and it hasn’t worked.

Welcome to Hollywood. They make it look so easy. But it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done, more difficult than making the Major League, even tougher than winning a seat in Congress. Because there are no delineated steps, everybody makes their own path and at every turn there’s someone jockeying for your job and gatekeepers ignoring you.

And if you’re lucky, you keep on keepin’ on. If you know deep down inside that you’ve truly got it, that you truly need to make it. And this is not a mind-set, not the faux positive thinking dispensed on TV. This is a belief that you’ll sacrifice absolutely everything for your dream – your girlfriend, your house, your health insurance. You’ll sleep in your car. Put on a happy face at your minimum wage day job and soldier on.

Because you must.

And I’d like to say everybody who does the above makes it.

But only a tiny few do.

And in so many cases it comes down to luck.

We listen to music to get us through. Sure, you can bump butts to beats in a club, but our favorites speak to us, make us believe we’re not alone, they exhibit a humanity absent from the rest of society. Music, when done right, is unfiltered, it’s directly from the artist’s heart to you. And when Bonnie did this, on her first couple of albums, she gained traction. But once she started doing it their way, she stalled. But then with little left to lose she did it her way once again. And broke through.

So keep the flame burnin’. Know there’s a coterie of people who feel what you do. That it’s not about marketing and promotion but the underlying art. And if it’s good enough, and if your timing is right, you might win, you might draw the lucky card.

But probably not.

Comments are closed