Anyone who didn’t know about Bonnie Raitt before this past weekend has been missing out in a big way. The recipient of 13 Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Raitt has been a force in music for decades, as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Rolling Stone has included her on its “50 Greatest Singers of All Time” list and its “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list.
For this song, there’s a football connection, in honor of this weekend’s Super Bowl.
Mike Reid was a star defensive tackle at Penn State. He was drafted 7th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1970 and made two Pro Bowls before quitting football in 1975 so he could pursue music.
It was a good career move — he became a top songwriter in Nashville and co-wrote this 1991 classic by Bonnie Raitt, “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”
Off Raitt’s 1991 Luck of the Draw album, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” became one of Raitt’s most popular songs. It followed another hit from the same album, the mischievous “Something to Talk About.”
“I Can’t Make You Love Me” features piano played by Bruce Hornsby.
Producer Don Was reflected on how Raitt made the recording session memorable:
. . . when she connected to this thing, I don't even know how to describe it. But I guess it’s like someone hooking you up to an electrical current; it was a physical experience to sit there and listen to it as it was going down there in the studio. . . . The only thing we ever had to change was a couple of lines where she started sobbing while she was singing. . . . she connected to the core of the song, and it was magnificent.
Others who have performed the song include George Michael, Boyz II Men, and Carrie Underwood, who performed this song at her American Idol audition (where we also learned that she can cluck like a chicken).
Raitt continues to be a major force in music. Her song “Just Like That” — about a woman visited by a man who is alive only because of the heart he received from the woman’s son — won two Grammys this past weekend, one for Best American Roots Song and one for Song of the Year.