The Raitt Time and Place

The Raitt Time and Place

I was recently listening to the velvet tones of Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Angel from Montgomery’ (a song that, believe me, does not leave your head once you’ve heard it once) and I started wondering about her success as an artist. With 13 competitive Grammy Awards (most recently in 2023), from 30 nominations, as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award it would be foolish to consider Bonnie Raitt as anything less than a musical legend, with a voice which transcends genre as well as temporal barriers. Yet, many have never heard of the 73-year-old despite her success. Raitt only started to achieve real fame in her forties, after years of lacking commercial success, with her 1989 album Nick of Time for which she won four Grammys. It wasn’t until the year 2000, when she was in her fifties, that Raitt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As much as this [article] is a love letter to Bonnie Raitt – who, if you hadn’t listened to before, you definitely should now – it is also a reflection on the eternal struggle between time and success. If Bonnie (we’re on a first name basis now) can win another Grammy in her seventies, what’s to stop us from achieving our dreams at whatever age and for however long we have working toward them? Imagine if Bonnie had stopped after a couple of years? She wouldn’t be proving that a youthful music industry is not the only one possible.  

Time is a concept which we constructed ourselves. There are no rules in life as to when you must achieve anything, yet society places monumental pressure on youthful shoulders to be exceptional at increasingly younger ages. Personally, I always imagined that I would graduate at 21. Never, in all academic life, did I imagine that the age at which I would graduate would be 23. If you told younger Lauren this, I think she would feel immediate panic. I never planned on a gap year, or a four-year undergraduate course, or a move to Scotland. Still, if you asked me if I would change any of these things my answer would be no. That’s not because I had the best time on my gap year (a barista during covid, earning minimum wage), or because I love my degree so much I wanted to prolong it by a year (although I do thoroughly enjoy it), some of these things just happened, and whether they are good or bad depends solely on the experiences I have gained and how I have developed as a person due to their happening. My successes are not linear, nor are they universal. A great success for me has been moving away for university when I am very much a homebird, for others, university is a necessary escape and a chance at liberation. All our successes look different, and they should all be celebrated, especially the everyday ones. You don’t need to win a Grammy to be successful, nor do you need to go to university to be intelligent, success is trying every day when you have faced failure or adversity. Success is choosing to be kind when it is so easy to be bitter. Your life is full of successes that you should take the time to commend yourself for.  

It is also important to remember that your success is not determined by how much people around you recognise it. Whether you knew of Bonnie before or are just now hearing about this music legend, her music, voice, and talent is no less impressive just because you might not have known who she is. It is a great reminder that your successes should always be celebrated, not least by yourself. 

Success does not equate to being wealthy or famous for many; whatever success looks like to you is valid. Maybe you have some truly huge dreams of being famous and winning that Grammy, and I really hope you reach them, but if you haven’t yet and you’re hearing about the singers who were a talent from age 11, or the poets who wrote the most moving literature of our time by the age of 25, or the baker who had their own bakery by 30 and invented a new type of bread, I am here to tell you it’s okay. You do not need to rush through your life – ultimately the finish line will be the same for all of us, and you will get there in your own time (don’t forget to thank me personally in your acceptance speech). So, instead of panicking, why not revel in taking our time, so that like Bonnie, when our time does come we can stand in front of our audience, knowing our experiences have allowed us to be the best version of ourselves, accepting our 13th Grammy in our seventies and proudly say; “[To] get Song of the Year for my songwriting when I’m barely a songwriter is just… after five decades. I’m so lucky to do this for a living […] It’s a wonderful thing.” 

I hope you finish this article inspired to take up or continue something you gave up on because you hadn’t got where you wanted to with it yet. Keep going, time is not a relevant factor to your success, and you’ll get there, even if it is just in the Nick of Time.