In the late '60s, restless in Los Angeles, Bonnie moved east to Cambridge, Massachusetts. As a Harvard/Radcliffe student majoring in Social Relations and African Studies, she attended classes and immersed herself in the city's turbulent cultural and political activities. I couldn't wait to get back to where there were folkies and the antiwar and civil rights movements, she says. There were so many great music and political scenes going on in the late '60s in Cambridge. Also, she adds, with a laugh, the ratio of guys to girls at Harvard was four to one, so all of those things were playing in my mind.
Raitt was already deeply involved with folk music and the blues at that time. Exposure to the album Blues at Newport 1963 at age 14 had kindled her interest in blues and slide guitar, and between classes at Harvard she explored these and other styles in local coffeehouse gigs. Three years after entering college, Bonnie left to commit herself full-time to music, and shortly afterward found herself opening for surviving giants of the blues. From Mississippi Fred McDowell, Sippie Wallace, Son House, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker she learned first-hand lessons of life as well as invaluable techniques of performance.
I'm certain that it was an incredible gift for me to not only be friends with some of the greatest blues people who've ever lived, but to learn how they played, how they sang, how they lived their lives, ran their marriages, and talked to their kids, she says. I was especially lucky as so many of them are no longer with us.