This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #463: I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt.
“Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t,
You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t.
Here in the dark, in these final hours, I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power
But you won’t. No, you won’t.
‘Cause I can’t make you love me, if you don’t.“
Never has relationship wisdom been so beautifully or elegantly expressed as it is in this song by Bonnie Raitt. Bonnie Raitt was a well-respected Blues/Folk guitarist, going on a quarter century, when she was given this song to record. Growing up, I had always heard her name mentioned whenever music industry folks talked about the best Blues players or the best female musicians but, to be honest, I could not have told you any of her songs back then. Raitt was never commercially successful in the first half of her career. She was almost looked upon as more of a sought-after session player than a successful solo artist. But then one day, out from the darkness that came from a court case between a former couple, came a moment happened that ended up changing Bonnie Raitt’s life.
A man was charged with vandalizing his ex-girlfriend’s car. When asked about what lessons he could draw from going to jail as a result of losing his temper, the man replied that, “Well, I guess, you can’t get a woman to love ya if she don’t.” The story of this case was printed in a newspaper that was read by two songwriters named Mike Reid and Alan Shamblin. The line that was uttered by this man struck songwriters. They felt it provided them with an opportunity to write about the dissolution of a relationship that was handled in a safer and more mature way.
The song that they wrote was, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. They gave it to Raitt, who recorded it and subsequently, released it on her album Luck of the Draw. Bruce Hornsby, who you may know, played the gorgeous piano notes that help to complete this song. Luck of the Draw elevated Bonnie Raitt into the stratosphere of recording artists. Since then, Raitt has won ten Grammy Awards, sold over ten million albums and was elected to The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
But, Raitt’s level of success isn’t only measured in album sales and Gold record awards. Over the entire course of her career, Raitt has been active in all manner of political and humanitarian causes; everything from the anti-nuclear movement, to pro-environmental groups, to promoting the Arts in schools and volunteering to participate in a variety of benefit concerts and fundraising endeavours for fellow musicians who might be down on their luck. One of the things that Raitt is most proud of is her ongoing recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. In the early phases of her career, Raitt bought into the idea that experiencing altered states of reality was necessary to achieving a higher level of creativity. However, she later became inspired to clean herself up and adopt a more sober and healthy lifestyle after watching the legend, Stevie Ray Vaughn kick his own addictions and, in Raitt’s words, “Play even better than before“. Raitt has maintained her health for the past two decades and willingly offers counsel to any person/artist who may look to her as an inspiration the way she once did for Stevie Ray Vaughn.
“I Can’t Make You Love Me” is one of those songs that is held up as the gold standard when it comes to ballads. It has been covered by superstars like George Michael and Adele and has been used to test the creative chops of aspiring singers on shows like American Idol and Rockstar INXS. But, no one quite matches the artistry of Bonnie Raitt. As painful as the realizations are that are being expressed in this song, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” stands as one of the most beautiful sounding songs of all time. A gift to all of us from a lady who has accrued a lifetime of wisdom of her own from a career as vast and respected as anyone to ever stand upon a stage and sing. Enjoy.
Bonnie Raitt’s excellent website can be reached by clicking on the link here.
Domestic Abuse is no joke. Far too many people (mostly women) have had their lives forever altered because of the violent nature of the partners they are living with. To help those who find themselves as victims of domestic violence, there are various organizations, locally and nationally, that are available to help. The website for an agency near where I live in Cobourg, Ontario, can be found here.
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