I grew up listening to plenty of Linda Ronstadt
, thanks to my mom. In fact, I'd say Linda Ronstadt was my mom's favorite musical artist, second only to Kris Kristofferson
, though he's a different post for a different time.
Of course, at some point, say around the age of twelve, I began rebelling pretty hard against mom (and dad), listening to heavy metal and punk, and so artists like Linda Ronstadt started sucking pretty damn hard in my worldview, a worldview to which I still kinda cling today. I mean, there are no Kenny Rogers
(another of mom's faves) records in my future, ya dig?
But Linda? At some point during the last decade I made my peace with Ms. Ronstadt, and today I consider her one of the great singers in pop music history. I guess sometimes one needs to mature and earn some perspective in order to fully appreciate a talent like hers, and today I totally understand why my mom played Ronstadt records so often. Her voice is pure and pretty when the song calls for it, and gritty and aggressive in other, appropriate, instances.
Which brings me to Linda's second great talent. You see, she has never written her own material, but damn if she isn't a consummate interpreter of other people's songs. In fact, not only am I willing to call her "one of the great singers in pop music history", but she's also one of the greatest interpreters as well. First of all, she picks great material for her particular vocal skills, and then she knows how to make those songs her own, whether they be '50's rockabilly, Cole Porter standards, the Mexican folksongs of her ancestry, light opera, or glossy pop.
I'm writing about Linda Ronstadt today because I recently picked up a 2-CD set from EMI
entitled The Best Of Linda Ronstadt: The Capitol Years,
and it's a stellar collection. Don't let the title fool you, though, because these two discs contain Ronstadt's first four solo albums in their entirety
You get Hand Sown...Home Grown
, Silk Purse
, Linda Ronstadt
, and Heart Like A Wheel
, all for the low, low price of $20 (give or take)...An amazing bargain, and no, I don't work for EMI.
At this point in her career (1969 to 1974), Ronstadt was an integral part of the Country Rock scene that was flourishing in Los Angeles, a scene that included future members of The Eagles
, Jackson Browne
, Gram Parsons
, Lowell George
and Little Feat
. As such, you can imagine how the music on these four albums basically sounds - laid back Country Rock
that, somewhat suprisingly, doesn't sound dated or hokey in the least. She's got top-notch musicians on each album (the cream of L.A. and Nashville), playing good/great songs, and of course, her own magnificent voice like the cherry on top.
Those good/great songs? Like I mentioned, Ronstadt knows how to pick 'em, and spread across those four albums on these two discs you'll find songs by Bob Dylan
, Hank Williams
, Neil Young
, Johnny Cash
, Randy Newman
, James Taylor
, Jackson Browne
, Phil Everly
, and Lowell George
There's really not much more to say about The Best Of Linda Ronstadt: The Capitol Years
, except that interspersed with some fairly average liner notes are several full-color photographs of an amazingly beautiful (perhaps "cute" is a better adjective) Ronstadt from that early 1970's era. It would seem half-German/half-Mexican is a mighty potent combination, because I can't stop looking at these pictures. Oh my!
A cute/beautiful singer of other people's songs? I guess that makes her that generation's Faith Hill...Or Shania Twain...Kelly Clarkson...Ashley Simpson...Jessica Simpson...Britney Spears...
Except that Linda Ronstadt is a much greater singer than any of 'em, and a much better song stylist, in any and all genres.
And at the risk of rambling in an already long post, there is Linda Ronstadt, the person...the woman.
By her own admittance, she enjoyed all the hedonistic pleasures of the music/fame industry - the drugs and alcohol, and the sex. Linda was a party girl, and she wasn't shy about it. While she never went off the deep end, like her good friend Janis Joplin
, it's true that she had affairs with plenty of famous men, some of whom, like Lowell George and Jackson Browne, have been mentioned in this post. Mick Jagger
lived with her for a season or two. If circumstances had been different, she might have been Jerry Brown
's First Lady in the White House. As it was, she dated Jimmy Carter's son, Chip, for awhile.
I mention all this because Ronstadt was, and is, unapologetic about her private life, and unwilling to conform to a society that likes to tell itself that women should be happy in a traditional, monogamous role, complete with the requisite subservience and non-aggressive sexuality. We tell ourselves this is how women should behave, all the while leering and lusting secretly for the whore within.
Linda Ronstadt is nothing less than a legend and an icon. A woman who has more than earned her place with Judy Garland
, Ella Fitzgerald
, Liza Minelli
, Barbra Streisand
, and Madonna
. A woman and a singer for the ages.Hotcha!
Labels: Blather, images, Linda Ronstadt, music