This was composed by Chris Smither (no, I’d never heard of him either) but was a hit for, and is now sort of a trademark of, Bonnie Raitt. Bonnie’s recorded a lot of good music over the years, but the thing with her is you need to see her play live, it’s at another level entirely.
Bonnie is a tuneful, convincing, loud blues singer (listen to Love Me Like a Man, for example), and is also a dazzling guitarist. In particular she has this gritty, textured slide-guitar tone that absolutely nobody else gets. This was brought home to me one time when I was at a concert and the opening act was led by her band’s keyboard player, and they weren’t bad at all, funk and soul and energy. But Bonnie came on to play their last tune, just played along on guitar in the band, and all of a sudden it was like they turned the volume up to eleven, there was this huge growling beast lurking in the center of the band’s sound.
But on Love Me Like A Man, she normally drops the slide and fingerpicks her breaks, which don’t have the raw intensity but are really just awfully graceful.
I have another connection with Ms Raitt. In 1989 I wrote a “benchmark”, a computer program which exists to test how fast computers can do a particular task — in this case, reading and writing data to and from files on disk. Because this kind of program exists to find bottlenecks in computer systems, and because Bonnie is so great with a bottleneck guitar, I called the program Bonnie, and people are still running it.
Now as for the words… are we into dangerous territory here? There is a breed of male songwriters who might have gotten themselves deep into the sexist weeds starting with a title like this. (And in fact, the original title was “Love Her Like a Man”). No, I don’t believe so at all; but give it a listen and see what you think.
Links · Spotify playlist. This tune on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon. Now for a live-video treat: First, very young at Austin City Limits, then a much more grown-up version; you wouldn’t want to miss either. Listen to those guitar breaks!