The redheaded, guitar-slinging blues rocker had been adored by her musical peers and a solid crop of loyal fans for nearly two decades when she soared to the top of the pop charts in 1989 with “Nick of Time,” a song and an album in which she detailed the joys and sorrows, triumphs and failures of life for a woman heading into middle age.
The success of the album and the two Grammy Awards it generated ratcheted her profile up markedly, but she’d spent too much time paying dues to let the newfound fame turn her head. She remained rooted to her love of the blues and R&B on which she cut her musical teeth, and which she mastered early on with formidable guitar skills. Her gritty, emotion-drenched voice imbues her signature songs such as “Something to Talk About” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” with the same sultry sass and bittersweet, real-life edge as her old-school heroines such as Sippie Wallace and Ma Rainey.
An insightful writer herself, she has long championed songs by other writers such as John Hiatt, Richard Thompson and Stephen Bruton.
The daughter of Broadway singing star John Raitt also has shown herself to be a tireless social activist, frequently appearing at benefit concerts for issues such as nuclear power, cancer, AIDS, poverty and famine.