Bonnie Raitt on Finding a Home In Americana

On Wednesday night (September 20), Bonnie Raitt took home the Song of the Year trophy at the Americana Awards & Honors. The moment, eleven years after her first win at the ceremony, was especially meaningful for the celebrated musician and singer/songwriter.

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Raitt’s career has gone through many ebbs and flows since she first emerged onto the music scene in the early 1970s. In recent years, the gap between the expectations of the industry and Raitt’s creative vision has widened. Rather than redirecting her sound to fit an ever-changing mold, she found herself being pulled under the broad umbrella known as Americana. 

In an interview on the Americana Honors & Awards red carpet, the 73-year-old Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member explained how the genre has embraced her.

“There was a bunch of us that straddle lots of different genres that were kind of out in left field, and we couldn’t get airplay,” Raitt tells American Songwriter. “Not that we weren’t legit before, but now we really have our own world here.”

Now, a decade after Raitt took the stage for the first time to accept the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance, she feels more connected to the event than ever.

“It’s not only ‘old home week’ [when I] get to see all of our friends, but to be recognized for the kind of music that I love so much… I’m thrilled to be here,” she explains. “Roots music has never been more popular and more influential. This [awards show] is the one that means the most to me.”

[RELATED: 2023 Americana Honors & Awards Winners]

A few hours later, Raitt returned to the stage to receive her latest honor, edging out fellow nominees Allison Russell, Margo Price, Zach Bryan, and Charley Crockett. During her acceptance speech, she explained how her recognized song, “Just Like That,” was inspired by another stalwart figure of the Americana music community.

“That song came to me as a gift, kind of channeled through me when I wanted to write a song inspired by our beloved John Prine, singing ‘Angel from Montgomery’ every night since we met in 1971,” she explained to the crowd. 

In 2019, Raitt joined Prine for what would become his final performance at the Americana Honors & Awards. Their powerful rendition of “Angel from Montgomery” now marks a bittersweet moment in history. Still, the legacy and community they both helped build now offers a space for new generations of artists searching for a space to call their own.

“I’m so proud of this organization, and I’m so proud of the musicians that we foster, nurture, and support,” she reiterated from the Ryman Auditorium stage as she accepted her award. “Thank God for the Americana format.”

Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Americana Music Association

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  1. Love Bonnie. Saw her at Stompin 76 in Virginia. Before most Americana people were born. She’s a diamond. PLEASE DONT GROW TO INCLUDE EVERYTHING lest you become like the R+R Hall of Fame. Congrats Bonnie.

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