Magazine article The New Yorker

Sing It Strong

Magazine article The New Yorker

Sing It Strong

Article excerpt

Sing It Strong

Bonnie Raitt

"I've never even been to Bed-Stuy before," Bonnie Raitt said. She was at the deep end of Bar LunAtico, which is owned by her friend Richard Julian, a singer and songwriter. A few years ago, Julian, amid the ongoing struggle of trying to make a living in the music business, decided to diversify, so he bought a building in Brooklyn, moved in upstairs with his wife and child, and turned the ground floor into a bar, with a stage crammed in one corner. Raitt was here to hang out, not to perform. She favors bigger venues, and has been successful and sensible enough in her affairs to have the luxury of forgoing diversification.

It was early evening, and there weren't many people around. She had on black boots, black jeans, a faux-leather mesh shirt, and a necklace of brass skeleton keys. To go incognito, she'll often not wear eye makeup and truss up her red hair under a hat, but on this night she felt no need to hide. She looked like Bonnie Raitt. She tasted her drink, a nonalcoholic craft cocktail, and said, "I might have to hit on myself later."

"It's really nice to be here and watch the daylight fade," she said. On the road, she explained, she spends her late afternoons in windowless rooms and halls--sound check, dinner, prep, performance--and doesn't get outside again until after midnight. "Small price to pay for the gig I have, but I really miss watching the day end and the night come on."

When Raitt passes through New York, she tries to build in extra time. She likes to bike the loop around Central Park. She has tenuous roots here. Her early childhood was spent in Westchester County, while her father, John Raitt, held down the lead in "The Pajama Game" on Broadway. "I knew all the alternate parts of the shows he was in," she said. " 'Carousel.' 'Oklahoma!' It was really cool to hang out backstage when I was a kid and soak up all that warming up and all the half-naked people running around. He did twenty-five years of summer stock. He toured into his early eighties."

When she was seven, he moved the family to Los Angeles. Summers, she attended a Quaker camp upstate. "I raced to get old enough to come to New York in the sixties, but I was too late." It was in 1969, post-heyday, that she got her first real gig, at nineteen, at the Gaslight, in the Village. …

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