Bonnie Raitt accentuated the positive, while ignoring the negative, in her latest response on social media following the controversy which surrounded her surprise win at the 65th Grammy Awards.
Raitt sent shockwaves through popular music when her “real-life” roots song “Just Like That” shut out popular artists like Harry Styles, Beyonce and Taylor Swift to win the sought-after Song of the Year Grammy.
There was a largely negative response in the mainstream media, with Rolling Stone labeling it as a WTF moment and declaring it “a typical Grammy blunder.” The magazine added: We thought the Grammys had moved beyond such bizarrely out-of-touch choices, but apparently not.”
And the U.K. Daily Mail declared: “So who is Bonnie Raitt?”
Showing the same dignity she displayed in her Grammy acceptance speech, Raitt posted on Facebook: “I’ve been so deeply moved, often to tears, reading the personal stories of hundreds of you, some of whom have had no familiarity with me or my music before I won that Grammy, and were curious why this song had won.”
Raitt was inspired to write her winning song after watching a news story about a mother who met the recipient of her dead son’s transplanted heart. Her endearing lyrics relate - in the first-person narrative - how the mother gets to hear her boy’s heart beating again:
I lay my head upon his chest
And I was with my boy again
And it was the issue of organ donation which dominated her Facebook response: “After listening, many of you wrote that you were moved to tears, even inspired to share your own heart-wrenching stories of either having your loved one’s life saved by an organ donation, or having decided at the height of the terrible shock and loss of losing a beloved, that you would donate their organs so that others could live. “
Raitt added: “So many messages from nurses and doctors in the field involved with transplants as well as people who were tragically not able to get an organ in time to save their loved one’s life. There are messages from the family members of people who wanted their organs to be donated, but are now living with the guilt when that wish, for whatever reason, was not able to be fulfilled. These stories run the gamut and I’m just blown open by the vulnerability and power of each of them.”
Raitt is no stranger to popular causes and her social activism dates back to her early recording days in the 1970’s. She has wasted little time in in converting the success of Just Like That” into raising awareness of organ donation: “May the song bring about even more awareness and motivation for more of us to support organ donation registration and infrastructure — removing obstacles that have hindered helping thousands connecting to facilitate this miraculous gift of life and help bring comfort to those suffering such tragic loss.”
And in her Facebook posting, she referenced her followers to an Op-Ed in USA Today by Dr Maureen McBride, the interim CEO of United Network for Organ Sharing.
As might be expected, Dr McBride used Raitt’s success to further the cause of organ donations. “He song was inspired, she said, by love and the grace and generosity of someone (who) donates their beloved’s organs tohelp another person live.”
She concluded: “Bonnie Raitt sang so beautifully about a life saved by an organ donor. Thousands of Americans are alive today because of transplants. Thousands join them every year. Nonetheless, we must take decisive action to best serve the thousands more who are still waiting.”
Another feature of Raitt’s Grammy speech which got much feedback, especially in the Americana music community, was how much she had been inspired to write following the death in 2020 of her old friend and collaborator John Prine.
In her latest posting she again referred to how seeing the news story on the transplanted heart had triggered memories of Prine: “I knew after it stayed with me for weeks, that I wanted to write my own story, inspired so much by John Prine’s music and his beautiful ‘Angel from Montgomery,’ which I’ve sung every show since hearing it in the early 70’s.”
Like many departed music legends, Prine’s fan base has not diminished since his loss and Raitt’s special tribute triggered a lively response across various social media fan sites. Prine’s widow Fiona Whelan Prine and Oh Boy Records, the independent record label Prine co-foundered, have also maintained a high profile in the past two years. And his official site gratefully acknowledged Raitt’s kind words without lifting the spotlight off her achievement.
Editor Crossroads – Americana Music Appreciation