Coronavirus

Bonnie Raitt Dedicates Comforting Message & Performance of ‘Home’ to John Prine: Exclusive

Bonnie Raitt and John Prine
Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall Of Fame.

Bonnie Raitt and Inductee John Prine perform onstage during the Songwriters Hall Of Fame 50th Annual Induction And Awards Dinner at The New York Marriott Marquis on June 13, 2019 in New York City.

Bonnie Raitt picked up her guitar and sang a gorgeous tribute from her home to bring comfort through a poignant cover at the end of a heartbreaking week.

Several artists have turned to their instruments in the confines of their own homes during the coronavirus pandemic, both to give their fans something to look forward to with virtual performances and stress the importance of isolating and practicing social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19. For Raitt, this time has allowed her to "find surprising blessings" and have "more time to just lay around and read, and cook, and do all those things I always wished I could do if I had more time," but this isolation means so much more than flattening the curve for her.

"The reason we're doing this is heartbreaking, and I'm hoping that we're going to be coming out of this with lessons learned, and appreciating what we have," she says in a video message exclusively shared with Billboard. "For those who aren't blessed to have a secure and safe home, and adequate medical care, and are worried about their economic future, and going through medical health crises, my heart is going out to you."

COVID-19 is personal for Raitt, who lost close friend and collaborator John Prine to complications from the disease on April 7. "I'm still so heartbroken over the loss of John Prine, and I know you are, too," she continues. "But I wanted to reach out and send my love, and wish you all the best, and tell you I'm thinking about you... Here we are, grateful to be here and looking at coming out of this wiser and more appreciative of each other."

She then dedicates Karla Bonoff's "Home" to her late friend and collaborator before strumming the tune: "God bless you, to that Angel from Montgomery. This one's for John."

In 2019, Raitt inducted Prine into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and she meditated both on their decades-long friendship and his significance as a performer in her speech at the event, which she's shared with Billboard as well.

"I got his album and was just blown away…every song a masterpiece," she wrote. "I went to see him at the Bitter End and immediately fell under his spell -- of that endearing, homespun, acutely perceptive, hilarious and heartbreaking wonder that is John. He came to see me at The Gaslight not long after and we started doing gigs and festivals together, forging a bond that has just grown deeper with time. I can’t even think of those early days without the memories of our Becky and Tom Sawyer adventures, sharing with Stevie Goodman and Al Bunetta some of the best times of my life... John’s songs have moved me more deeply than nearly anyone else’s and to have had the gift of his friendship as well as getting to sing his masterpiece, 'Angel from Montgomery,' all these many years, have been two of my life's greatest gifts."

Read Raitt's speech for Prine below.

During those heady days in the early 70’s when a bunch of us were just starting out, word had spread about this incredible guy out of Chicago -- 

A songwriting mailman with Kentucky roots, named John Prine. I got his album and was just blown away…every song a masterpiece. I went to see him at the Bitter End and immediately fell under his spell -- of that endearing, homespun, acutely perceptive, hilarious and heartbreaking wonder that is John. 

He came to see me at The Gaslight not long after and we started doing gigs and festivals together, forging a bond that has just grown deeper with time. I can’t even think of those early days without the memories of our Becky and Tom Sawyer adventures, sharing with Stevie Goodman and Al Bunetta some of the best times of my life.

I know they’re with us here in spirit, John… and among the beloved friends and fans who are gathered to celebrate you tonight. It’s truly a miracle we’ve made it this far.

The best songwriters and poets can get you to see something that may have been right there in front of you the whole time, just never noticed. That John can fit so much meaning and insight into such deceptively simple lines and weave a heart wrenching moment of hilarity, empathy or a hard fought truth into such beautiful stories and characters, then wrap them all up in melodies as comfortable as slipping into your favorite pair of old jeans.. What a gift. He’ll buckle at this description, but too many others who matter agree he’s a genius -- truly one of a kind and as beloved as he is important. 

There are too many brilliant songs to single out here tonight from the astonishing body of work John has created these last six decades. If he only wrote ‘how the hell can a person, go to work in the mornin, come home in the evening, and have nothing to say.’….or any isolated verse or chorus of the hundreds he’s given us, that would be enough. But he’s kept at it all this time…setting the bar high again and again, and managing to find new stories to tell -- indelible jewels of economy, wit and heart.

Across generations and genres, he continues to be an incredible inspiration to me and so many -- now with a whole new family of gifted artists like Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Dan Auerbach, Margo Price, Brandi Carlile and many more, acknowledging their debt and adoration.  

To have come through the challenges he’s been faced with these recent years, buoyed by the love of his fans, friends and family -- his beautiful Fiona and their sons,  bringing him this year to one of the most renowned and celebrated albums of his long career -- well, it makes the celebration tonight even more sweet. 

With his raspy chuckle and twinkly eyes, cracking himself up telling stories we'll never get tired of hearing…he’s our own Mark Twain, Woody and Will Rogers -- always bringing a wry, clear eyed, open hearted honesty and truth to every song he writes. John’s songs have moved me more deeply than nearly anyone else’s and to have had the gift of his friendship as well as getting to sing his masterpiece, "Angel from Montgomery," all these many years, have been two of my life's greatest gifts. May we be lucky enough to sing it together for many more years. 

For all you’ve given us, we thank you, John. It is my great honor and joy to be able to induct you, finally, into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.