At the 62nd annual Grammy Awards, legendary singer/songwriter Bonnie Raitt is taking the stage to introduce legendary singer/songwriter John Prine, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. And it might not be too long before Raitt herself is honored with that distinction. She is a 10-time Grammy winner, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, an American Music Awards Lifetime Achievement recipient, and was the Grammy Awards’ MusiCares Person of the Year in 1992.
It is this last distinction that plays into why she never had children. The MusiCares Person of the Year is given annually to a musician to commend them for their artistic achievements and dedication to philanthropy, which is Raitt’s primary reason for not having kids.
Raitt Wants to Be a Mother to Her Charitable Causes
In a 1998 interview with the New York Times, Raitt talked about what a massive commitment it is to raise children and how she wanted to devote her time to the causes that are near and dear to her heart.
“Having children is an incredible commitment,” said Raitt, who was married to actor Michael O’Keefe from 1991 to 1999. “That’s why I chose not to. I feel that my job is to mother the causes that I’m involved in. And with me, it’s already so hard to say no. No matter if I say yes to five organizations and benefits there are still 30 that I have to say no to. And that’s what I go to bed with at night, thinking, ‘What’s going to happen to that woman who said her Native American art department was going to close if I don’t do this show?'”
And she certainly has a lot of causes to mother. Over the years, Raitt has been involved with dozens of charitable organizations, including Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, Arts for the Schools, Blues Foundation/Blues In The Schools, Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Water Fund, Doctors Without Borders, Girl Forward, Homeless Prenatal Program, Hope for Haiti, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Living Jazz, Mothers for Peace, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Rock the Earth, the Sierra Club, Sticking Up For Children, Stop Handgun Violence, Time Out Youth, and Veterans for Peace, among many, many others.
She Credits Her Charity Work With Helping Her Recovery From Addiction
Raitt was known as a hard partier in the 1980s, once telling On the Red Carpet that she thought she “had to live that partying lifestyle in order to be authentic [as an artist].”
But she became clean and sober in 1987, crediting classic artist Stevie Ray Vaughan for helping her see the light because she thought he was an even better musician once he got sober.
“[I]f you keep it up too long, all you’re going to be is sloppy or dead,” she finished. She later told the New York Times, “I’m really grateful that I didn’t either kill myself or somebody else. I really used to think I needed to be messed up to sing the kind of music I sing … I don’t regret all those years [of hard partying], but I was one of the lucky people that could say no to it and not miss it that much.”
But she adds that once you’re sober, you have to find other outlets for your feelings.
“One of the excruciating parts about being awake and sober is that you really have to come to terms with all of that darn stuff and anger and figure out a way to put a saddle on it. Otherwise, you’re going to have a heart attack,” said Raitt. And that’s where the charitable causes come in.
“You just do what you can. As long as I’ve got a mouth, somebody’s going to be hearing about it. I’m just glad I won those Grammys, so now I get on a better page when the newspapers cover these things,” said Raitt, adding, “I think some people have a bent to act when they see something wrong … I have to fight that rage.
“For a long time, I just thought I was a peaceful Quaker, a passive person, and I’ve come to terms with a lot of anger and rage. I think everybody has to come to terms with that. When I was partying I think I got a lot of it out that way. Now I just turn my amp up.”