Born to boogie:
It would have been nearly impossible for Bonnie Raitt to not be born with musical talent. Her father, John Raitt, was an actor and singer who frequently performed in Broadway musicals. Her mother, Marge Goddard, was an accomplished singer and pianist. Young Bonnie was playing guitar by the time she was eight. By the time she got to high school, she had become fascinated with slide guitar, and blues music.
Music was almost what might have been:
It wasn't music, but social activism that prompted Raitt to enroll in Harvard's Radcliffe College in 1967. A chance meeting with a prominent blues promoter led her to blues clubs in Boston and Philadelphia, where she performed with legends like Howlin' Wolf, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Sippie Wallace. It was while she was opening for McDowell in a New York City club in 1970 that she came to the attention of Warner Bros. and landed her first record deal. Up until then, Raitt had considered music to be just one of the many things she was interested in. Now, it was going to be her career.
No overnight success:
Her self-titled debut release in 1971, and the next four that followed, were highly praised by critics, but had only moderate to mediocre sales success. It was 1977's Sweet Forgiveness, her sixth album, that finally established her with the music-buying public, primarily on the strength of her cover of "Runaway" (which had been a #1 hit for its co-writer, Del Shannon, in 1961.) Her next two albums made it to the Top 40, but in 1983, she was one of several prominent artists (Van Morrison and Arlo Guthrie were also on the list) who Warner Bros. decided to drop from their roster. Not only was she without a label, she was increasingly having problems with drug and alcohol abuse. In 1986, Warner Bros. decided to release a revised version of the album Raitt was recording when she was cut, but Nine Lives failed both with critics and the public.