Bonnie Raitt’s distinguished career has never been about singles success, but on December 14, 1991 she finally did something she’d never managed in a 20-year recording year to that point. As her 11th studio album Luck Of The Draw continued its multi-platinum success in America, she made the UK singles chart for the first time with its beautiful ballad “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”
Only a few months earlier, the singer-songwriter-guitarist from Burbank, California had scored her first-ever major US hit with the album’s rocky “Something To Talk About,” written by Canadian Shirley Eikhard. Raitt’s 1989 career-reviving Nick Of Time had given her a first-ever showing on the UK album countdown in 1990, although its five-week run was not a patch on the record’s incredible chart-topping, triple Grammy-winning acclaim in her home country.
Two singles from that set, the title track and “Thing Called Love,” had charted below the published Top 75 of the UK listings. But then came “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” a ballad of rare delicacy written by country composers Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin, co-produced by Bonnie with Don Was and featuring piano by Bruce Hornsby. It became a US chart entry in November and climbed to No.18 in early 1992.
In the UK, the song peaked at its No.50 entry position, and Raitt has only once made the Top 40 there, with 1994’s “You.” But “I Can’t Make You Love Me” has gone on to become a staple of her repertoire, inspiring countless covers by the likes of George Michael, Prince, and Boyz II Men. Bonnie’s tender performance of it was a highlight of her widely-acclaimed 2016-17 Dig In Deep tour, described by the Sydney Morning Herald as “electric, exciting and very satisfying.” The song shimmered again as a jewel in her Just Like That… tour setlist of 2022.
Buy or stream “I Can’t Make You Love Me” on the Nick Of Time album.