Although she was just a few years out of college when Warner Bros. Records signed her in the early 1970s, Bonnie Raitt struggled for nearly two decades before she finally achieved the popular recognition she so wanted and deserved.

Born in 1949 to Broadway star John Raitt and pianist Majorie Haydock, Raitt got her first guitar when she was just eight years old, and after only a few years, it replaced piano as her favorite instrument. She took in all sorts of musical styles, from the folk she learned to love at a Quaker summer camp in upstate New York, to the blues she started to listen to when she was just a young teen. She began to play slide guitar, using bottles to bring a rough, authentic edge to her songs.

But it wasn’t until she enrolled in Radcliffe —  Harvard’s sister school in Cambridge, Massachusetts —  in the late 1960s that she began to hone her true style.

“She emerged as both a prodigy and anomaly,” wrote the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when she was inducted in 2000. “A young woman who sang blues with gritty passion and played slide guitar with authority, as if the genre’s fundamentals had been etched in her soul.”

Warner Bros scooped her up, and in 1971 put out Bonnie Raitt, a bluesy take on her beloved folk that played off 1960s predecessors from Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones, but with an added feminine rasp that had been missing from the previous decade’s roster of stars. Rolling Stone was particularly impressed by her work on the guitar, calling her slide skills “uncommonly good,” and faulting the production team for not showcasing it more prominently.

Over the next decade and a half, Warner put out eight more albums — most of which were critically acclaimed —but for reasons unknown, her music never succeeded in attracting a wide commercial audience. The label dropped her amid a destructive period when she abused drugs and alcohol — before she cleaned herself up in 1987, an accomplishment she later credited to the late Stevie Rae Vaughan.

But Capitol Records saw promise where Warner did not, and in 1989 she finally hit her stride with Nick of Time, an album that embraced the fear of growing older, a theme to which her Baby Boomer peers could relate. It won her three Grammys, topped the Billboard 200, and ushered in a new era where middle-aged women singing about middle-aged problems was not only acceptable, but commercially viable.

“I think it’s our job to write about what we’re going through at the moment,” she told Q magazine at the time, “and being 41 I’m not going to write about the same things I wrote about at 20. I don’t think artists should be farmed out to pasture just because they’re in rock ‘n’ roll.”

We agree.

Watch her SiriusXM in-studio performance of Right Down the Line and Used to Rule the World, and don’t forget to check out her upcoming new album Dig In Deep, due out Feb. 26, 2016.

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