This Day in ’96: Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne Get Environmentally Conscious

Tuesday, October 8, 2019
This Day in Music

23 years ago today, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne headlined a concert to benefit environmental groups in Oregon. Neither artist was even remotely unfamiliar with taking a stand to save the environment, of course, but Raitt’s profile was particularly high in that world at the time, having been arrested during a protest in California only a few weeks earlier.

On September 16, 1996, Raitt was part of a group of protesters trying to stop the logging of redwoods up to a thousand years old in Headwaters Forest by protesting in front of the Pacific Lumber Company Mill in Carlotta, California. In a report in the Deseret News, an employee of the sheriff’s department said that 600-800 people were taken into custody, while Michael Shellenberger of the Headwaters Forest Coordinating Committee claimed, “They stopped counting after 1,000, and they ran out of handcuffs.” It’s worth noting that Bonnie wasn’t the only Raitt who was arrested – her father, Broadway star John Raitt, was hauled off, too – and the two of them were in good company, since Don Henley ended up being arrested, too.

It wasn’t as big a deal as it sounds – as it turns out, the protesters were never jailed, they were processed at the site and released – but it was enough of a news story that people were certainly aware of it at the time. As such, when Raitt and Browne showed up for their show in Jacksonville, Oregon on this date in ‘96, there were plenty of anti-environmentalists there to greet them. As Jacqueline Vaughn Switzer wrote in her book Green Backlash, “hundreds of angry loggers, miners, and ranchers…demonstrated outside, using chain saws, air horns, firecrackers, and synthetic skunk [to vent] their frustration.”

No, it wasn’t exactly what you’d call an optimal audience. But Raitt and Browne were both professional musicians and professional protesters, so they put on the show and six environmental groups benefited from their efforts.