I'm happy to say that at 62, I think I've reached that point where stuff doesn't bother me as much, and my gratitude level has gone way up, especially having gone through the loss that I've had, and losing so many of the great artists that I was close to. They taught me how to see it with a grain of salt and a lot of humor and perspective.
I was always drawn to the blues. Alberta Hunter at the Cookery was a life-changing experience. I only wanted to get enriched as a performer as I got older, to have an audience which got older, too, and would come to see me when I'm 80.
Distribution has really changed. You can make a record with a laptop in the morning and have it up on YouTube in the afternoon and be a star overnight. The talent on YouTube is incredible, and it can spread like wildfire. The downside is that it's very hard to convince the younger generation that they should pay for music.
I'm sure I would have been considered a more significant artist if I was a singer-songwriter. It's just not the way I roll. I love being a curator and a musicologist. People write me letters and thank me for turning them on to Fred McDowell and Sippie Wallace, and that's partly my job this time around.
Especially girls, but any kids exposed to music programs and arts programs do much better on their tests. They have a better chance of going to college. They can focus better. You know, we're not just automatons learning how to work machines and do engineering and math and science. All of that's great, but you've got to build a whole person.
People say, 'Gee, you don't really do political music.' Well, I sing a lot of songs about how men and women and lovers treat each other, and none of us want to be talked down to or belittled or ignored or disrespected... So I'm proud to be a feminist.
Quakers are known for wanting to give back. Ban the bomb and the civil rights movement and the native American struggle for justice - those things were very, very front-burner in my childhood, as were the ideas of working for peace and if you have more than you need, then you share it with people who don't.
In 1967 I entered Harvard as a freshman, confident - in the way that only 17-year-olds are - that I could change the world. My major was African Studies, and my plan was to travel to Tanzania, where President Julius Nyerere was creating a government based on democracy and socialism.
Finding great songs is the hard part of my gig - it's not as hard as songwriting, that's much more daunting - but I love playing other people's music.
Playing guitar was one of my childhood hobbies, and I had played a little at school and at camp. My parents would drag me out to perform for my family, like all parents do, but it was a hobby - nothing more.
Not being a natural songwriter... for me the appreciation of a great song and the writers came early on, growing up in a musical family. My dad got to sing songs by some of the greatest writers of all time, Rodgers and Hammerstein.
I think I'm a living embodiment of, 'Don't try to push me around or squash me,' whether its how I talk to a record label or in my relationships.
I tend to be freer on the piano. I never took guitar lessons, so my reach exceeds my grasp - what I hear in my head I don't always know how to play. But I love to play over something else. I'm not a self-starter. I get kind of bored with the same three folk chords that I know.
I've been lucky enough that I can gather all sorts of experiences and find inspiration by traveling around and by spending time with people I admire.
One of the biggest obstacles I've overcome in my life was thinking I didn't deserve to be successful. Artistically I'm not as much of a heavyweight as someone like Paul Simon or Joni Mitchell, because I'm not a creator of original music, and I worried about that for years.
I do feel my loved ones that have passed on; I feel them looking over my shoulder... So yeah, that's pretty profound, when you're not expecting it, you didn't particularly believe in it and then it just sort of happens too often to ignore.
Since I was 20 years old, I've been a kind of corporation. I'd wake up in the morning and my job was to be 'Bonnie Raitt' in capital letters.
The world I live in is benefiting from things like satellite radio. Jazz and blues fests are everywhere now, and Americana is going strong on college radio. What I'm hearing is an appreciation of real music.
The anti-nuke movement has important and far-reaching implications for grassroots organizing. It can unite kids and musicians, everybody, whether they're leftist or rightist, or radical, or Republican, because energy is energy. But in fact, it is a real political struggle - it shows people that it's big business against the people.
A lot of political music to me can be rather pedantic and corny, and when it's done right - like Bruce Springsteen or Jackson Browne or great satire from Randy Newman, there's nothing better.