“Just Like That”: The Powerful Meaning Behind Bonnie Raitt’s Surprise Grammy Winner
When the Grammy Awards aired on Sunday night, there were more than a few surprises. One of the biggest surprise wins was for Song of the Year, a prestigious Grammy often considered one of the Big Four awards along with Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best New Artist. As a result, the category featured a very impressive group of nominees for the 2023 award: Adele, Lizzo, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, Steve Lacey, DJ Khaled, Kendrick Lamar, and Bonnie Raitt.
Given that Lamar and Adele were among the artists with the most nominations at the 65th Grammys, and that Lizzo and Styles won awards in the Big Four, those four seemed like the strongest candidates for Song of the Year. Meanwhile, 12-time Grammy-winner Swift was also a strong contender with her unique 10-minute song, “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version).” However, the award ultimately went to Raitt for her song “Just Like That.” While most fans were preoccupied with singers like Styles and Lizzo, both of whom received the most hype, Raitt was a stronger contender than some might have thought. The iconic blues singer also received the Lifetime Grammy Achievement Award during this year’s ceremony, bringing her career total to 13 Grammy awards.
Viewers’ surprise at her win was still warranted, considering that even Raitt did not seem to expect to win Song of the Year. When the news was announced, she looked shocked as she made her way to the stage. However, the award was definitely well-deserved, as listeners of the gut-wrenching and powerful song will recognize.
The meaning behind Bonnie Raitt’s “Just Like That”
“Just Like That” appears on Raitt’s album of the same name, which was released on August 22, 2022. The song is a folksy ballad with a soft, slow tune that tells a very heartbreaking tale. It begins with the story of a woman named Olivia Zand who receives an unexpected visitor. She finds herself oddly trusting of the mysterious stranger, and lets him in her home after he says he has something Zand would “want to know.” The lyrics, from Zand’s point of view, read, “It’s not like me to trust so quick / Caught me by surprise / But somethin’ about him gave me ease / Right there in his eyes.”
The song then changes direction as Zand looks back at how life can change “just like that.” She reveals that her son would’ve been 25 today if he hadn’t died when she “looked away.” Zand goes on to detail the regret she feels about her son’s death: “They say Jesus brings you peace and grace / Well he ain’t found me yet.” The song circles back to the man, who reveals he has spent years looking for Zand to let her know that he was the recipient of her son’s heart when he died. He says, “It was your son’s heart that saved me / And a life you gave us both.”
That’s when the woman finds her life changing again, “just like that,” as she lays her head on the man’s chest and feels herself coming out of the “darkness” as she listens to the sound of her son’s heart beating once more.
Is “Just Like That” based on a true story?
Since the release of her album, Raitt has opened up about the meaning behind “Just Like That.” In an interview, she explained that the inspiration for the song came in 2018, as she watched a news segment about a mother who donated her child’s organs and was preparing to meet the man who received her son’s heart. The segment had a profound impact on Raitt who said, “I just lost it. It was the most moving and surprising thing. I wasn’t expecting it. I vowed right then that I wanted to write a song about what that would take.”
With “Just Like That,” Raitt didn’t just want to retell the story she heard; she wanted it to convey the incredible love and compassion it takes for a family to choose to donate the organs of a loved one, especially a child. She also wanted to explore the perspective of a recipient and what it means for them to receive the product of a family’s compassion amid unimaginable loss.
During Raitt’s acceptance speech, she revealed that the late John Prine also inspired her song. Prine sadly passed away in 2020 due to complications from COVID-19. The legendary singer-songwriter also once wrote a powerful song on organ donation called “Please Don’t Bury Me.” Not only is Raitt’s song infused with the memory of Prine, but it is also a beautiful and heart-wrenching tribute to organ donors and their families.
(featured image: Kevin Mazur, The Recording Academy)
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