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Pop Rewind: Bonnie Raitt “I Can’t Make You Love Me”

Interestingly enough, most of us are familiar with blues/R&B legend Bonnie Raitt, not because of her longevity, but because of what could best be described as a comeback.

Although Raitt first came on the scene in 1971, she didn’t see her first real breakthrough record until she was 50 years old, or her first Top-10 single until two years after that. While she achieved critical acclaim and sporadic commercial success prior to that, she stayed largely under the radar due to a combination of label politics, gender bias (female guitarists were generally not favored) and her own substance abuse issues. After getting dropped from her label in the mid-1980s, she took the down time to get clean and sober, and in 1989 released her tenth record, Nick of Time. The record launched her into stardom and garnered her three Grammy Awards (including Album of the Year).

Her next LP, Luck of the Draw (1991) was even more successful, breaking her into the Top-40 for the first time and yielding her most memorable hits, including the song shared below. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was originally written as an uptempo bluegrass number by country songwriters Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin, but Raitt recorded it as a slowed-down, forlorn ballad. She captured the vocals with a single take because the emotion of the moment was so powerful she felt she couldn’t repeat it. The song has since gone on to become one of her best-loved hits, ranked in Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

For trivia buffs—watch the video carefully. Recognize the guy at the piano? Yep—that’s Bruce Hornsby, who lent his trademark keys to the track. Enjoy!

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About the Author


Tim Ferrar's interest in pop and rock started as a child, listening to Top-40 radio for hours on end while playing air guitar in his bedroom. Eventually air guitar led to electric guitar, and Tim began playing in bands and writing his own songs. With an admitted weakness for "a great hook or a great guitar riff," Tim's musical tastes are broad and varied, ranging from Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga on the pop side to Bon Jovi and Foo Fighters on the rock side- making him the ideal guy to cover our Rock and Pop categories. By day, Tim is a mild-mannered accountant in Chicago. By night, he rocks out on electric guitar in a cover band in various clubs around town- much to the surprise of some of his clients.

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Posted in: Rock Music


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