Linda Ronstadt is one of the most diverse vocalists of our time. She has performed Rock, Jazz, Big Band,Pop, Country, Mexican Folk, (semi) Punk Rock, and even Classical & Opera. You may remember when Linda was a guest DJ on The Wave in 2006. She told the story of how her very musical family shaped her outlook on life, and gave her the nucleus for a dazzling career matched by few, and envied by many. Linda has now written it all down in her new book “Simple Dreams,” just as she told us she would back in ’06.
The recent announcement of Linda Ronstadt’s medical diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, that has taken her majestic voice from the world, made me apprehensive about seeing her in person. I thought I would be tremendously saddened to see her in a wheelchair, and unable to sing. I was pleasantly surprised, (and relieved), to see a very positive and energetic Linda walk out on stage for a lively 60 minute interview for KCET.
“Simple Dreams” tells the entire musical story of Linda’s early life from within her small adobe home in Tucson, Arizona listening to powerful Mexican radio stations, to her selling out 50,000 seat stadiums three decades later.
It was very clear to me, that Linda’s life is (and always has been), all about the music. She dislikes stardom so much so, that she has given away all of her Grammys and Gold Records. She humbly stated that Darlene Love was “better than any of us.”
In 1967, Linda was barely out of her teens when she recorded Mike Nesmith’s composition “A Different Drum,” as part of The Stone Poneys. Possibly her most dynamic song of all came three years later. “Long Long Time” is a beautiful ballad that could be sung by no-one else.
At this time, she was asked to start touring, and hastily assembled a back-up band that included both Don Henley and Glenn Frey. The two future giants had never before met, until forced to share a hotel room together for the tour. The result was, the forming of The Eagles, which became one of the biggest fusion bands of all time, molding Folk, Country, and Rock music into what became known as ‘The Southern Calif Sound,’ which Linda also was a huge part of. The Eagles actually hit it big a couple of years before Linda did. They are now celebrating their 40th anniversary, and they owe it all to Linda.
In 1975, Linda’s career finally exploded as she made many great Rock n’ Roll hits even bigger than they originally were. Betty Everett’s “You’re No Good,” Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day,” The Rolling Stones “Tumbling Dice,” and Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” have now all become classic Linda Ronstadt songs.
After 10 years of riding that successful wave, Linda made a huge career pivot. She recorded an album of Pop/Jazz standards with her idol Frank Sinatra’s most famous musical director, Nelson Riddle, who did not even know who Linda was. The gamble paid off so well, they did three albums together.
Her early influences now commanded that she expand her career even further, and thus came Canciones De Mi Padre (Songs Of My Father), an album totally in Spanish, (which Linda had to brush up on). The album sold 10 million copies worldwide, becoming the biggest selling non-English album of all time. Appearing in Gilbert & Sullivan’s opera, “Pirates Of Penzance” rounded out her career even further.
Linda prefers small concert halls to big arenas, real records to MP3’s, and attending Opera over Pop performances. Some of her favorite artists are Smokey Robinson, James Ingram, Aaron Neville (whom she had three hits with), and Frank Sinatra. Her favorite album of all is the very moody, Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely.
Linda is a very special artist who really only loves the music, and disdains the business that goes with it. I was very glad I attended this event, and the “Writer’s Bloc” interview will be televised on KCET at 9pm on October 15th. I’m told the segment where I ask Linda why her own personal gold records are hanging in a small record store in Ashland, Oregon will be featured at the end of the show.
Ironically, I had just bought tickets the day before to see The Eagles upcoming concert in January when they re-open The Forum. As much as I love The Eagles, I will always think something is missing from any show in which I see them, and that missing item will be the dynamic voice of Linda Ronstadt.