Bonnie Raitt says Prince asked her to teach him how to play slide guitar

Prince (left) and Bonnie Raitt
(Image credit: Larry Busacca/WireImage; Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images)

Bonnie Raitt has revealed that when Prince invited her out to Paisley Park to collaborate on some tracks, The Purple One asked her if she would teach him how to play slide guitar.

Speaking to Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, Raitt described Prince as “an incredibly creative and interesting person” with unimpeachable funk cred. Indeed, Prince had it all. 

When Raitt first met him, his abilities as a multi-instrumentalist had become the stuff of legend, but there was one electric guitar technique he hadn’t yet mastered, and that was slide. Who better to teach him than Raitt?

“Our time together was aborted somewhat because of scheduling, I couldn’t make [it] when he was available, so he went ahead and did the tracks in his key – or they were songs he'd already written,” says Raitt. “So when I got out there and we had a couple days to try some things, they were way too low for me, but he wanted me to play slide on some stuff, and he wanted me to teach him how to do it.”

Even for Prince, mastering slide guitar is no gimme. Perhaps owing to time constraints, he took a more expedient approach to putting slide on his records, and sampled the bona-fide slide legend instead.

“He sampled some of my slide on Cream, says Raitt. “I just showed him how I do it. So I got the feeling he said, ‘I don't necessarily have to learn how to do this because I can just sample you.’”

Raitt expressed some regret that their schedules didn’t allow them more time to collaborate, but described their relationship as one of mutual admiration.

“Musician to musician, it was really a joy because he was a big fan of mine.

"I didn't even know he knew who I was,” said Raitt. “In that era he was growing up, he was very much aware of me. I was doing R&B covers and rock and roll, the same kind of mix that I do now… He said he thought it was really great that I was covering a Don Covay song or Martha and the Vandellas and all this, you know? So he was little, but he was growing up and admired my playing, and I went nuts for him when I first heard about him.”

Raitt might not have had the time to teach Prince the rudiments of slide guitar and collaborate again, but they did get to watch Sly & The Family Stone and The Staple Singers, she got a tour of the always flamboyantly dressed star's closet, and confirmed that there was a sense of theater in everything that Prince did. Even when it came to getting a lift to his house…

“When I first met him, he sent a car for me with purple lights in the back and little porcelain figures with...the face, it was pretty great,” says Raitt.

Elsewhere in the interview, Raitt tells Lowe about growing up in the melting pot of Los Angeles, picking up a guitar after being influenced by Joan Baez, and explains why staying in one genre never held any appeal for her.

“I can't limit myself to one style of music. It would drive me crazy. People say, 'Why don't you do a whole blues record, or a jazz record? Oh, you're so good at ... Why don't you do a funk record or work with this producer?' Because then I would miss out on the mixture of songs that makes my life really interesting.”

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.