She'd met and befriended famed blues manager/promoter Dick Waterman. And it wasn't long before she had sidled up next to legends like Sippie Wallace and Howlin' Wolf, earning a record deal along the way. Bonnie even relocated to Philadelphia for a spell hanging onto Waterman's coat tails.
Bonnie made her debut in 1971 with a self-titled set and critics heaped praise at her feet. Her guitar chops earned the most notes, but her voice and song choices were none too shabby either. That trend continued through the '70s with Give It Up (1972), Takin' My Time (1973), Streetlights (1974), Home Plate (1975), Sweet Forgiveness (1977), and The Glow (1979). Only one real hit single emerged during the decade, “Runaway” off Sweet Forgiveness.
As the 1980s rolled around, Bonnie still couldn't crack through with Green Light in 1982 and Warner Bros. dropped her without even releasing 1983's Tongue & Groove record. With some substance abuse issues taking hold, Raitt recast the album as Nine Lives in 1986 and saw her worst numbers ever.
Then, with 1989's Nick of Time, everything spun on a dime. The effort not only topped the charts and won an armload of Grammy Awards (Album of the Year among the three), it sold some five million copies and broke Raitt into the big time.
She was album to catch more lightning in a bottle two years later with Luck of the Draw which won three more Grammy trophies as it sold more than eight million units. Singles like "Something to Talk About" and "I Can't Make You Love Me" became radio staples.
Again, with Longing in Their Hearts in 1994, Bonnie seemed untouchable. It went to number one, won two Grammy Awards, and sold in the millions. Her live Road Tested only managed to go gold in 1995.
Things cooled down after that for 1998's Fundamental, 2002's Silver Lining, and 2005's Souls Alike. In 2000, Raitt was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Trying to get her mojo back, the blues icon gathered up folks like Norah Jones and Ben Harper for Bonnie Raitt and Friends in 2006. At the 2012 Grammy ceremony, Bonnie joined Alicia Keys for a tribute to Etta James. A new Raitt album, Slipstream, was slated for release in the spring of 2012 with a tour to accompany it.
Long a champion of various liberal issues, Raitt's political activism and charity work include:
Musicians United for Safe Energy
Alliance for Survival
Little Kids Rock
Stop Contra Aid