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Conversation / Interview with Barb Bonfanti


marvin

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I'm certain that those of you who have been at the reunion shows have noticed the constantly-smiling Barb Bonfanti. Her smile perfectly mirrors the emotion of every fan in the audience. In fact, she is EVERY FAN. My chance meeting with Barb at the first soundcheck was pure luck, but it has given me the opportunity to strike up a friendship with a very sincere person - someone who wears her raspberry-colored heart on her sleeve, and someone who exudes a warmth and grace that is addictive. Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking with Barb and asking her some questions that have been on my mind, and maybe on yours as well. So with Barb's and Bernie's blessings...

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1. I know that you and Jim have been together since the beginning of time! Were you a fan of the music or did you become a fan through your association with Jim?

BARB: Well the band didn't exist when Jim and I first got together, so I only got to know the music once they had formed - and it was great. A combination of everything they loved. I knew Dave and Wally from when they were in the Mods, when they were about 15. I met Eric a couple of years later.

2. Ok the most obvious question, it's been over 30 years since Jim played with the band, except for the reunion in 2000 that didn't materialize, during the course of all those years, did you ever think that the band would reunite?

BARB: I always hoped it would, though I had my doubts that it ever would. Over the years Jim and I talked about it a lot. "Yeah when hell freezes over", Jim would say. We'd always stayed in touch with Dave, and have stayed with him and Kim on our visits there. Eric we hadn't seen so much until the last 6 or 7 years. We would occasionally see Wally playing out somewhere. It was never mentioned and I don't think anyone thought it possible. We had a lot of history together (all of the guys in the band were even in our wedding), and we've just about pinched ourselves to see if this is really happening.

3. Favourite Raspberries song?

BARB: "I Can Remember."

4. One of the most emotional moments for me through all of this was seeing you at the first soundcheck with a tear in your eye when the band was running through "I Can Remember." What was going through your mind at that moment?

BARB: There was emotion bouncing all over the place. Nostalgia was a small part of it. But, it's just that I know how much joy this brings to them, and that is one song that I've always loved. I remember years ago when they would practice that song, I could sit and listen to it always. The recordings never did capture the real meat of that song or the band.

5. Favourite Jim performance on a Raspberry song?

BARB:"Ecstacy." His drumming is phenomenal.

6. Has Jim written any songs?

BARB: (laughs) Well he has, but it wasn't pretty! One song that we've got lying around here somewhere was called, "You Ain't Bald, You Just Got A Lot of Face." I recall every now and then Jim would help Eric with lyrics, if Eric was stuck for a word.

7. Favourite non-Raspberries music to listen to?

BARB: I like a lot of different things. I have very diverse musical tastes. I love Bonnie Raitt, Anita Baker, the Eagles, Don Henley (solo) and for real entertainment, Bare Naked Ladies! Of course, I really enjoy all the old Beatles music. One thing that I can't tolerate is 'rap.' Jim and I were both really into John Denver years ago, and the highlight of my life at that time was meeting him backstage.

8. How does it feel to look into the crowd and see a bunch of middle aged people reacting like teenagers? Does it feel weird?

BARB: It doesn't feel weird at all. I guess from my perspective, I don't understand it, because there is no one out there that I get excited about. It's wonderful that there are fans out there who are getting excited - and the band loves it. I liken it to a sporting event where the intensity of the crowd makes the team play better. The crowds at the shows have made the band better. I realize that a good portion of the people on the Message Boards had never seen the band play live before, so the fact that this band has been able to spur this kind of emotion in people is just amazing, and I can't imagine people love a band so much that they've traveled from across the world to come to the shows.

9. The best thing that's come out of the reunion for you?

BARB: Jim and I were talking about this just the other day. Absolutely, bar none, it's the teriffic people that I've met through these shows, and the renewed friendships. It feels so good to have everybody be friends again. It's even better and warmer now that we have all grown up! I have little family, so getting to know people like yourself, Bernie and Gene - all such fantastic people. I told Jim the other day that I was going through withdrawl! I said that I miss Billy and Jennifer and all of the "togetherness" ! This has been the best part of all of this. There's no feeling in the world that can top that for me. Another very cool thing is having Derek (percussion) involved in the show. We have been close friends with his mom and dad for years and watched him grow into such a great kid. I'm sure when he was born none of us had a clue that someday he and Jim would be working in music together. It's also great having Paul be a part of all this. He is such a talented guy and so much fun to be around. That was one of things I loved about Jim's "other" band, Boxer.

10. Favourite Raspberry story?

BARB: I remember Jim telling me about a contest where the winning school would win a Raspberries concert. It was some type of school spirit thing. The winning school ended up being a school for the deaf! Jim said everyone's feet were tapping during the concert and the applause at the end was wonderful.

11. Favourite thing to do to relax?

BARB:What does that mean?! No actually, I love to read, especially mystery novels. There's a local author, Les Roberts, that I really enjoy reading.

12. When you're not following Jim around the country, what do you like to do with your spare time?

BARB: Play with my grandchildren! I love embroidering and needlework, and the charity organization that we started, "Boaters for A Cure", gives me immense pleasure. Boating is something that occupies much of our time in the summer. I'm not very good at it, but I also really love playing golf.

13. I guess your daughters were not around when the Raspberries existed in the early 1970's, what has been their reaction to seeing dad performing and the incredible reception the band has been receiving?

BARB:They're thrilled! My son-in-law was blown away. Seeing their faces at that first show was very touching for me. Though they've always heard the music, they've never seen Jim play like this and never with that band live. They're starting to realize the magnitude of all of this and of course they had no inkling about the crowd reaction.

14. What do you think the Raspberries legacy will be?

BARB:Well it's still amazing to me that a band as good as they are, can do what they've done, and still get little acknowledgement from the music world. I think that everyone is finally realizing that live, this band is amazing. I mean Carnegie Hall I'll never forget, but now they've outdone themselves. These shows have been better, especially Chicago.

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Thanks Barb!

Marvin

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Thanks, Marvin, and Barb! What a wonderful interview! I met one of Barb's best friends at the concession table, the night of the Cleveland Reunion Concert, and bought a teeshirt from her. She was a sweetheart! I see that Barb is also!

Great job, Marvin! Barb really expresses the joy that I always knew the guys felt playing their music together! It's fabulous to hear her put it into words. And, Barb, I hope to meet you at the next concert.

smile --Darlene

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Marvin,

Thanks so much for sharing your interview with Barb! I really enjoyed reading her comments on a wide range of Berries questions. Hope this is just an "appetizer" for what is to follow in the post-reflections! You've really got me curious with your post about additional reflections coming in from "unexpected" sources! Should make for one very interesting read! Thanks for all you do and glad you're back! We need something to look forward to! I am going through Raspberries reunion withdrawl too, and need a good fix!!

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Barb asked me to post this response on her behalf -

QUOTE:

Many thanks for the kind comments. I feel I am the one who is truly blessed to be a part of this whole wonderful happening! Being able to meet some of you very wonderful people has been the "icing on the cake".

Barb

END QUOTE

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Marvin great interview and I agree Barb is a very special lady. Although I go back with the band many years it was just this reunion that gave me a chance to get a little closer to Barb and Jim. Barb is a class act and I am very fortunate to call her my friend.

Lastly, Marv; you always seem to give everyone a little bit more, thanks for being there and thanks for just being you.

Ernie

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During the 1st show in Cleveland I was in one of the opera boxes but couldn't see Eric from where I was when he moved to the keyboards. At the first notes of "I Can Remember" I HAD to run out to watch from behind the seats in the balcony. I got a pretty good vantage point just behind a woman who seemed as excited as I was to hear this song was in the playlist. She turned a few times and smiled and I thought "do I know you?" ...or maybe we were just both so giddy but we never said anything. Once I was home and viewed all the pictures online, I realized it was BARB! Too funny to read it's her fave Raspberries song!

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