Dear Ms Ronstadt:
May I call you Linda? I thought I knew you well enough to call you Linda until I read your memoir Simple Dreams.
I fell in love with you in the late 60’s when your Stone Poneys’ folk-rock song “Different Drum” hit the charts. Oh, how I wanted to be like you in that song: emotionally strong, independent, not needing a guy, forging my own path unencumbered by someone else’s expectations.
I followed you through the 70’s as your wide-ranging, crystal clear voice and rock music repertoire earned you status as one of the few solo “girl singers” on the male-dominated concert circuit.
Sure I enjoyed your music, but more urgently I wanted to BE YOU:
- the “you” who grew that lusciously thick, sable brown hair
- the “you” peering from those deep, sparkling brown eyes
- the “you” with a figure so petite I wondered how you could belt out those songs with such melodious force
I wanted to be the “you” captured in photos wearing that simple white peasant blouse and those up-to-here cutoff jeans, your shapely legs curving down into a pair of well-worn cowgirl boots. I wanted to be the “you” who shared the stage with Emmy Lou Harris, belted out duets with Neil Young, and partied with Don Henley and Jackson Browne.
You were everything I wasn’t – me stuck in white bread Midwest America where a glamorous singing career, star-studded parties and a seemingly wanderlust path were about as attainable as a trip to the moon.
All this time I thought I knew you, and I envied you. You set me straight in Simple Dreams about life on the road and my false impressions about the ease of your rock star career. Your “party” image and bad girl attitude were promoted by your manager to shape your public persona into one fitting the rock milieu. For the most part, that image didn’t reflect you or your rich Mexican heritage and close family ties.
Your life on the road was often lonely because breaking into the rock industry as a female lead singer came with its own stressors, many the result of male band ego issues.
During your long and productive career, your musical aspirations grew well beyond your folk-rock beginnings. Not only did you return to your roots with an album of Mexican folk songs, but you had the courage, ambition and talent to star in the operatic Pirates of Penzance on Broadway:
followed by another musical shift when you recorded the critically acclaimed jazz/pop albums with Nelson Riddle and his orchestra:
From short-short cutoffs to pirate pinafores to elegant ball gowns, your crystal clear voice has filled my home with music straight from your heart.
Linda Ronstadt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 10, 2014. Sadly, she has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease silencing one of the most gifted singing voices of our time.