Youtube thought I’d like this - they were right!
Just for Mark Latimer ;-)
It’s kind of sad that UMG has made a point of getting the video of Bonnie Raitt’s live performance (with Bruce Hornsby on piano) at the 1992 Grammy awards removed from YouTube, at least for people in the US (and apparently elsewhere, since my attempts to view it using a proxy have also failed). Because I can still remember the shock I felt when I watched that performance when it originally aired.
Maybe it’s fitting, though, since for me the memory comes from a time when the instant gratification of being able to watch whatever I want whenever I want it wasn’t a thing yet.
I don’t remember where I was, though from the calendar I probably was at home in Mammoth with Linda. Nine-month-old Julia was probably asleep in the next room. I wasn’t a Bonnie Raitt fan, or a Bruce Hornsby fan, so my expectations weren’t high. And then the song started, just the piano and her voice, and everything in my world stopped.
From the Wikipedia page for the song:
For Raitt, the song was notoriously difficult to sing, due to its required vocal range, difficult phrasing and breathing, and the emotional content involved. At the televised Grammy Awards of 1992 Raitt performed it in an even more austere setting than on record, with just her and Hornsby highlighted. As she negotiated the final vocal line, she let out a big audible and visible sigh of relief that she had successfully gotten through it.
I don’t remember the sigh of relief. I just remember being mesmerized by the performance.
In an interview with NPR in 2002, Raitt said:
I mean, ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ is no picnic. I love that song, so does the audience. So it’s almost a sacred moment when you share that, that depth of pain with your audience. Because they get really quiet, and I have to summon … some other place in order to honor that space.
Through the years (largely through the influence of my music-industry wife) I’ve come to appreciate that the Grammys tend to have really good performances. It’s not just that these are some of the top acts in the business. It’s that they’re performing live, for just a few minutes, in front of an audience that includes the musical greats they themselves grew up idolizing. So there’s a lot on the line, and they tend to bring it.
Not every time, and not every artist. But on February 25, 1992, Bonnie Raitt brought it. I hope I get a chance to see that performance again someday. Because in my memory of that night 21 years ago, it was pretty much the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard.