“Linda was like the queen. She was like what Beyoncé is now.”~Bonnie Raitt
March 1, 1973. The Myriad Convention Center in Oklahoma City. Neil Young is the headliner performing in concert. He’s touring in support of his album “Harvest”, which was released a year earlier. The opening act that night is twenty-six year old Linda Ronstadt. In the concert world, there are many nights when the opening act steals the show from the headliner. This was one of those nights. While not unfamiliar with her because of her song “Different Drum”, with the Stone Poneys, it was a pleasant surprise to hear what she could do live and on her own. We left the arena talking more about Ronstadt and her big voice, than Young, who was one the biggest stars in the rock music world.
Eighteen months later, Ronstadt released her breakthrough album, “Heart Like a Wheel.” The album classified as double platinum, meaning it sold more than two million copies. The world found out what the those of us who saw her that night in Oklahoma City already knew. Linda Ronstadt was a star in music world.
The new documentary “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” looks at the life and career of the superstar musician. Her story is told in concert clips and by interviews with her friends/fellow musicians such as Jackson Browne, JD Souther, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, as well as Ronstadt herself.
“Linda could literally sing anything.”~Dolly Parton
The clips prove why the quotes by Raitt and Parton are correct. As a singer, there wasn’t anything that Linda Ronstadt couldn’t do. It didn’t matter if it was rock, country, standards, opera, show tunes or traditional Mexican music, she could handle any genre of music and make it sound like it was her main focus. Although she didn’t write songs, she could take any tune and make it her own. When you hear her versions of tunes written by accomplished songwriters such as Warren Zevon and Karla Bonoff, you’d think those songs were written with her voice in mind. She took those songs and made them better…and memorable.
The film doesn’t spend any more time looking at her struggle with Parkinson’s Disease than any other period of her life. It’s just another stage. While most of her contemporaries are still making music and performing, Ronstadt’s voice has been ravaged by the disease. It’s the reason she retired from performing a decade ago. You see Ronstadt singing a Mexican song with her cousin and a nephew, but you can barely hear her voice. She doesn’t consider that singing , but said, “I can’t let them sing this without me.”
The word legend is overused, but to use it to describe Linda Ronstadt, it’s appropriate. She may not be able to sing anymore, but her legacy was set decades ago. In an industry where the artists come and go, it’s easy to forget someone who hasn’t been around for ten years. People of my generation will never forget her. “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” reminds us of the greatness of Linda Ronstadt.
Related Post–Linda Ronstadt: Not quite ready to say goodbye
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