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Queen of Hearts

Twenty albums on, Bonnie Raitt proves she can still make us love her

Author Justin Goldman Photography Marina Chavez (Raitt)

izzardFrom her resonant voice to her bottleneck slide guitar playing to her whitestreaked red hair, Bonnie Raitt cuts a singular figure. This month, the 66-year-old blues-rock legend and 10-time Grammy winner releases her 20th album, Dig In Deep. Here, she talks about her place in music history—and in the contemporary scene.

On having to play the hits “I don’t want to repeat myself too much, and this being the 20th record, I’ve covered a lot of heartache and anger and betrayal and longing. How could I possibly get any deeper than ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’? As for the rockers and the R&B tunes, if you have a song about missing somebody ’cause they were just the greatest lover you ever had, that’s gonna feel as good to you singing it at 65 as it did at 23.”

On choosing covers to play “My practice has been pretty much the same: going through my record collection or going to people’s houses, disappearing at dinner parties, thumbing through vinyl, and the Internet. The INXS song [‘Need You Tonight’], ever since it was a hit back in the ’80s, I said, ‘Man, I am going to cut that thing and slow it down.’”

On being pigeonholed “People always try to put me in a box. Even when I had those hit records in the ’90s, 80 percent of people thought I was a country artist. I don’t know where that comes from. I prefer having this kind of umbrella that’s inclusive for all kinds of different roots music—anything that puts John Prine and John Hiatt back in the culture and gives me a shot, regardless of my age.”

On being a pioneer “So many young women come up and go, ‘Because of you, I asked for an electric guitar when I was 10.’ I’m really proud of that. But when I was a little kid, I didn’t really notice gender; I liked Muddy Waters. As I got older I got singled out as being great—or ‘pretty good for a woman’—playing this style. It didn’t even occur to me to think that women couldn’t play blues guitar.” —  JUSTIN GOLDMAN (FEB. 26)

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