Our 10 Essential Bonnie Raitt songs article takes a look at Bonnie Raitt’s first twenty years as a recording artist. The list begins with the first album Bonnie Raitt released in 1971 entitled simply Bonnie Raitt. The album contained Bonnie Raitt’s first hit entitled “Runaway,” which was a cover of the classic Del Shannon song. We conclude twenty years later with two songs from her Grammy Award winning album Luck of the Draw. From 1971 to 1991 Bonnie Raitt recorded eleven studio albums. After the release of Luck of the Draw, Bonnie Raitt continued releasing studio albums for a total output of seventeen studio albums from 1971 to 2016.
From 1971 to 1991 Bonnie Raitt released a series of albums that defined the word substance. Her records always featured a stellar lineup of some of the finest musicians in the business. Bonnie Raitt’s singing and playing were in a league of their own. There are certain musicians that have that thing that’s indescribable whenever they play. You can’t put it into words, but you know it when you hear it. Stevie Ray Vaughan had it, John Coltrane, Robert Plant, Carla Thomas, musicians, and singers like those artists had an unmistakable sound and delivery that was almost not of this earth.
The lineup of musicians on Bonnie Raitt’s solo albums are astonishing. It’s a shame we live in an mp3 world now where listeners see no information except a song title when listening to the music. Knowing who is playing drums, bass, harp, guitar, keys or soloing makes listening to the music so much more interesting. We will compose some articles on those lineups and albums in the near future.
We chose to stop at 1991 because it is very difficult to choose 10 songs from an artist like Bonnie Raitt who has had such a long career. It was incredibly difficult to choose only ten Bonnie Raitt songs from her first twenty years because every one of her albums is loaded with classic songs and brilliant performances. Compounding the issue is the two albums, Nick of Time and Luck of the Draw which both were nominated for so many Grammys, we could have made a top 20 Bonnie Raitt songs list just from those two albums.
In the end, this is a Top 10 Essential Bonnie Raitt songs list filled with songs that you must hear. It’s more focused on presenting Bonnie Raitt’s music to those who are younger than us old geezers and may not know much about the career of Bonnie Raitt. So we apologize to those Bonnie Raitt fans who may feel we missed some great songs. There are simply too many. One more thing. This list was composed so that the songs are listed in chronological order from 1971 to 1991.
10 Essential Bonnie Raitt Songs (Part I – 1971-1991)
# 10 – Walking Blues
We open our top 10 Bonnie Raitt songs list with a cover of an old Robert Johnson song entitled “Walking Blues.” The track was released on Bonnie Raitt’s first album entitled Bonnie Raitt. The album hit the stores in 1971. The song was originally written by Robert Johnson in 1930.
# 9 – Love Has No Pride
Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Has No Pride,” was released on her second album entitled Give It Up. The record was issued in 1972. The song “Love Has No Pride,” was written by Eric Kaz and Libby Titus. Bonnie Raitt’s second album captivated fans and critics alike with her blues-infused deep emotional singing. The song “Love Has No Pride,” was the album’s closing track.
# 8 – You’ve Been In Love Too Long
As we move on through this Essential Bonnie Raitt songs list, we are trying to capture at least one song from every album. At number eight we turn to her third album and the record’s opening track entitled “You’ve Been In Love Too Long.” The great song was written by Ivy Hunter, Clarence Paul, and William Stevenson. The song was originally a hit for Martha and the Vandellas in 1965.
# 7 – Angel From Montgomery
“Angel From Montgomery,” is a song written by the great artist John Prine. The song has been widely covered by many artists including the Dave Matthews Band, Carly Simon, Ben Harper, and John Denver. Hands down, the ultimate version was Bonnie Raitt’s recording of the song. Raitt released “Angel From Montgomery,” on the Streetlights album. The record was issued in 1974.
# 6 – Runaway
It’s hard not to argue that Del Shannon original version of the classic song “Runaway,” could never be topped. Nonetheless, Bonnie Raitt’s rendition is such a unique arrangement that took the song to a completely different place. It’s such a brilliant performance and arrangement that we could not fail to mention it on this Essential Bonnie Raitt songs list. As we said in the intro the song Runaway stands as the first hit of Bonnie Raitt’s career and the first recording of hers to break into the Billboard music charts. It was also symbolic of the style she would develop as an artist who would be a song interpreter rather than an artist who wrote most of her own songs.
# 5 – Keep This Heart In Mind
The great groove behind “Keep This Heart In Mind,” kept calling to us when we were putting together this list. The song was released on the Green Light album in 1982. The song featured the legendary Jackson Browne on backing vocals.
# 4 – Nick Of Time
From 1971 to 1989, Bonnie Raitt was one of the most well-respected artists in the music business. Her albums sold well and she had an incredibly successful career from both a commercial and an artistic standpoint. However, the commercial success Bonnie Raitt enjoyed was multiplied times 10 with the release of the album Nick Of Time in 1989. The album earned Bonnie Raitt the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. In the wake of the award, the album wound up selling five million copies.
Not only did the record win a Grammy for Album of the Year, but it also won three more Grammys for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, (Nick of Time), Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female, (Nick of Time), and Best Traditional Blues Recording (I’m In The Mood). The album’s great opening track and title cut is the ultimate mixture of blues, jazz, and pop. The song was also written by Bonnie Raitt.
# 3 – Thing Called Love
The most successful song from the album Nick of Time was the single “Have A Heart.” The song reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, our favorite song from the album was the John Hiatt penned track “Thing Called Love.” Listen to Bonnie Raitt’s slide guitar solo in the middle of the song. Pure blues perfection!
# 2 – Something To Talk About
With that great slide guitar opening riff at the beginning of the song that cascaded into a timeless hook, Bonnie Raitt’s “Something To Talk About,” was destined to become one of her trademark songs. The song was released on the follow-up album to Nick Of Time entitled Luck Of The Draw. The album was released in 1991. Bonnie Raitt’s “Something To Talk About,” would become the biggest hit of her career. It was the highest-charting song she ever released and her only top 10 song. “Something To Talk About,” hit number five on the Billboard Hit 100 in 1991.
# 1- I Can’t Make You Love Me
The beauty of this song is simply breathtaking. It is easily the greatest recording Bonnie Raitt has ever released throughout her entire career in our opinion. It may not be her biggest hit, but it’s the one you will never forget the first time you hear it. With Bruce Hornsby on piano, Bonnie Raitt delivered one of the most heartfelt vocal performances in popular music history. The song ” I Can’t Make You Love Me,” was released on the album Luck Of The Draw. The album was released in 1991. The song was composed by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin.
Photo: By David Gans (originally posted to Flickr as Bonnie Raitt) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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