Linda Ronstadt’s ‘Simple Dreams’

It was about time Linda Ronstadt found her way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. She practically earned it with “Simple Dreams” (No. 316 on The Big List) alone.

It’s easy to criticize Ronstadt in light of what followed. And I did. The following year’s “Living in the USA” bothered me so much I wound up ignoring the presence of “All That You Dream,” one of my favorite songs now by her. (“Ooh Baby Baby” was my favorite at the time.) By the time she got to “Mad Love,” her attempts at “New Wave” were just shrieky and sad. (I remember someone writing that one of the biggest problems with her recording Elvis Costello’s “Party Girl” was that she’s exactly the kind of person the song was about.)

Come the 80s, Ronstadt to me meant lush melodies played professionally and sung soul-free and heartlessly. The Julia Louis-Dreyfuss parody on “Saturday Night Live” at the beginning of 1984 said what I was thinking at the time, much better than I could have.  (I only wish I could link to the video, which was spectacular.)

But this album. Wow.

To give you an idea of where Ronstadt ranked in the music stratosphere at the time, “Simple Dreams” replaced Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” (No. 96 on The Big List) at the top of Billboard’s rock album charts. And it replaced Elvis Presley’s “Elvis in Concert” six-week run at the top of the country charts. (Presley’s “Moody Blue” album was No. 1 for nine weeks after his August 1977 death.)

I sure didn’t appreciate her crossover ability and appeal at the time. But I can hear it all over this album.


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