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As a Harvard/Radcliffe student majoring in Social Relations and African Studies, she attended classes and immersed herself in the city's turbulent cultural and political activities. "I couldn't wait to get back to where there were folkies and the antiwar and civil rights movements," she says. "There were so many great music and political scenes going on in the late '60s in Cambridge."
Raitt was already deeply involved with folk music and the blues at that time. Exposure to the album Blues at Newport 1963 at age 14 had kindled her interest in blues and slide guitar, and between classes at Harvard she explored these and other styles in local coffeehouse gigs. Three years after entering college, Bonnie left to commit herself full-time to music, and shortly afterward found herself opening for surviving giants of the blues. From Mississippi Fred McDowell, Sippie Wallace, Son House, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker she learned first-hand lessons of life as well as invaluable techniques of performance.
"I'm certain that it was an incredible gift for me to not only be friends with some of the greatest blues people who've ever lived, but to learn how they played, how they sang, how they lived their lives, ran their marriages, and talked to their kids," she says. "I was especially lucky as so many of them are no longer with us."
Word spread quickly of the young red-haired blueswoman, her soulful, unaffected way of singing, and her uncanny insights into blues guitar. Warner Bros. tracked her down, signed her up, and in 1971 released her debut album, Bonnie Raitt. Her interpretations of classic blues by Robert Johnson and Sippie Wallace made a powerful critical impression.
Raitt is a multiple Grammy winner who initiated the Bonnie Raitt Guitar Project with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, currently running in 200 clubs around the world, to encourage underprivileged youth to play music as budgets for music instruction in the schools run dry. After spending her career split between Warner Bros and Capitol Records, she is venturing out on her own with a label called Redwing Records.
Bonnie currently sits on the Advisory or Honorary Boards of a number of organizations, including Little Kids Rock, Rainforest Action Network, Music Maker Relief Foundation and the Arhoolie Foundation.
Her commitment to the redemptive power of music is expressed in the foreword she wrote to American Roots, the book based on 2001's PBS series of the same name. "I feel strongly that this appreciation needs to be out there so that black, Latino and all kids can understand the roots of their own musical heritage," she explains. "The consolidation of the music business has made it difficult to encourage styles like the blues, all of which deserve to be celebrated as part of our most treasured national resources."
Alberta Hunter was born in Memphis and grew up in Chicago. She was a pioneering African-American popular singer whose path crossed the streams of jazz, blues and pop music.
Leroy Carr, born in Nashville, Tennessee, 27 March 1905. His family moved to Indianapolis in 1912. He spent time at the Pot Roast Club in 1917, watching and listening to pianist Ollie Akins.
As a Harvard/Radcliffe student majoring in Social Relations and African Studies, she attended classes and immersed herself in the city's turbulent cultural and political activities.
Bessie Smith helped pioneer the genre of blues music and propel it into popular culture. Smith was born into poverty in Chattanooga, Tennessee to William Smith, a preacher, and Laura Smith.
Huddie Ledbetter was born January 15, 1888, on the Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana. He was an only child who quickly became interested in music when he received his first instrument.
Legendary blues singer B.B. King was born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. King spent his childhood in the Mississippi Delta, but in 1946 left to pursue a music career in Memphis.
National Museum of African American Music
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The National Museum of African American Music will stand as an international iconic cultural museum dedicated to the vast contributions African Americans have made in music.