Linda Ronstadt

(While it’s immaterial to the discussion below and has no connection whatsoever to her music, I confess that I found mid-1970s Linda Ronstadt unbelievably sexy. The pictured poster is the only pinup of a female I ever purchased.)

When John Lennon was murdered, an older colleague told me he was beginning to understand that the most difficult part about growing older was seeing the demise of your icons – whether by actual physical death, or by their inability to continue doing what they did.

We were both sports writers, so the decay of Willie Mays’ talents was on our mind.

Both that co-worker and I have seen too many our icons fall in the 33 years since Lennon’s murder. But for some reason, I’m truly struck with sadness that Linda Ronstadt has reported her singing career has concluded because of Parkinson’s disease.

(Just to get this out of the way, while Ronstadt is quoted in the story as saying, “No one can sing with Parkinson’s disease. No matter how hard you try,” there are therapy singing groups for individuals with the disease.)

Ronstadt has been a lot of different things in her career – down-home farm girl (and isn’t that one of the craziest album covers ever?), rock-n-roller (she was the concert highlight in the film “F.M.”), romance paperback cover, teen queen, chanteuse and whatever the hell she thought she was when she posed for this picture for Rolling Stone magazine in 1978.

A lot of Ronstadt’s work fell well outside my ears. I loved the country-rock thing she started with, and I liked the early Peter Asher albums a lot. In spite of myself, and in spite of the painfully shiny polish producer Asher put on “Living in the USA,” I enjoyed that too. When she appeared to laser target the mainstream into the early 1980s, I lost interest, and it went away altogether when she went to lounge and cabaret songs with “What’s New.”

But even before that, Ronstadt had established herself as a great cover singer. Whether it was her or Asher or Andrew Gold (or any combination), Ronstadt’s covers of previous hits are often perfect. Among her covers that at least match the quality of the originals are “That’ll Be the Day,” “It’s So Easy,” “You’re No Good,” “Silver Threads and Golden Needles,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “When Will I Be Loved,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me,” “Blue Bayou,” “Back in the U.S.A.,” “Ooh Baby Baby,” Just One Look,” “Hurt So Bad,” “Get Closer” and “I Knew You When.”

Those all, by the way, were released in a 10-year period.

And it leaves out the greatest piece of all.

If the only thing Linda Ronstadt had recorded in her life was 1975’s “Heat Wave,” she would be justifiably remembered.

I wrote a whole bunch about that song a few years ago. Take a look.


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