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Grief, Loss and Love: The Wisdom of Bonnie Raitt

Raitt just released her 20th album at 66 and knows about pain and perseverance

By Keith Harris

With her wickedly bluesy slide guitar and worn, yet warm, vocals, Bonnie Raitt has been recording songs about the ways love and desire do and don't change as we mature for 45 years now.

On her 20th album, the newly released Dig in Deep, the 66-year-old Raitt also confronts the personal losses she has experienced in the not-too-distant past. Both of Raitt's parents passed away a little over a decade ago. Then, in 2009, Raitt lost her brother and a friend died of cancer a month later.

The Interview

Brittany Spanos recently spoke with Raitt about moving beyond her grief for Lenny. Here are some highlights of their talk:

On taking time away from her career to come to terms with her pain: “I wanted to experience all the sorrow and the grief and deal with it off the treadmill of running my own company and promoting records and being on tour.”

On acknowledging the mutual disappointment that can arise in a relationship: “The inspiration for the song ["The Ones We Couldn't Be"] was someone in my family. We've had a complicated and difficult relationship. I started with the idea 'I'm sorry for the ones we couldn't be' because I couldn't be who they wanted me to be, and I know that I let them down as well.”


On the lessons to be learned from loss: “When you're not getting along, you tend to blame the other person. But really the heartbreak is both of you. You hold each other up to an expectation that is unrealistic. It's only later that you have compassion and perspective, especially when they're gone.”

On emerging from grief: “Coming out of any dark period, you eventually step out of it, whether it's divorce or losing your best friend or your own health crisis or you lose your parents.... Just like love, you don't think you're going to be in love again, and, sure enough, life keeps happening.”


Keith Harris has written about music and pop culture for more than 20 years. His work has appeared in publications such as Rolling Stone, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Slate and Salon. He lives in Minneapolis and blogs at Read More
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