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Bonnie Raitt: Thank God for Occupy (Salon.com)

Without even releasing any new music, Bonnie Raitt has a surprisingly big year in 2011. Her 1991 hit “I Can’t Make You Love Me” enjoyed a spike in popularity, as two of the biggest names in music recorded much-discussed covers. Adele included a powerful version on her concert album “Live at Royal Albert Hall,” drawing a straight line between the 20-year-old song and her own stoically dignified breakup songs on “21.”

Justin Vernon included a nearly a cappella cover as a B-side to “Calgary,” gently mashing it up with Raitt’s “Nick of Time.” The choice proved provocative and divisive among fans, almost as though he had consciously picked the most unlikely source material imaginable. But his enthusiasm seemed genuine: “She’s one of our greatest ones, for sure,” he told Jimmy Fallon just before he performed “I Can’t Make You Love Me” on “Late Night.”

Rightly or wrongly, Raitt has become mired in AOR, representing exactly the type of music that punk, indie rock and other left-of-the-dial genres were meant to displace. It’s been too easy for a new generation to overlook or simply dismiss Raitt as music for their parents. Adele, for instance, was a tween the last time Raitt released a new album. But those two covers, along with a recent duet with Alicia Keys at the Grammys, has prompted a reconsideration of Raitt as a vocal interpreter and guitar player. (Continued...)