Streams

Linda Ronstadt's Simple Dreams

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Linda Ronstadt discusses her wide-ranging and unique musical journey. Ronstadt arrived in Los Angeles just as the folkrock movement was taking off, and she helped define the musical style that dominated American music in the 1970s. In her memoir Simple Dreams, Ronstadt writes of her musical family, her artistic curiosity, and her varied career.

Linda Ronstadt realized at the age of four that she was a singer. But, she says, "I wasn’t a good singer for a long time. It took me 10 years." What was the missing ingredient? "I didn’t sing with a certain kind of freedom and a certain kind of abandon, where you’re absolutely lost."

She talked about how reading, looking at art, and watching ballet all influenced her music. "It would color every single note."

She also described how her hit song "Heart Like a Wheel," was a turning point for her: "It changed my life. It was like Eureka! I had found it..."

Linda Ronstadt’s career was filled with many collaborations with everyone from Aaron Neville to Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. But there's a certain art to collaboration: “It’s a whole litany of little crafty tricks and techniques that you have to do to sing with somebody else. It’s like being a sound chameleon.”

Although she’s never watched any of her own performances on YouTube, that hasn’t stopped her from finding other singers on the site: "In spite of the fact that YouTube has crappy sound and lousy picture, I love it. It’s so much fun."

She also described losing her voice, before she received her official Parkinson’s disease: "I didn’t think it was just age because I was listening to a lot of other people who were aging at the same rate that I was and their voice wasn’t changing the way mine was…And I knew it was mechanical. I knew it was muscular somehow…And that’s exactly what was happening…My voice would freeze up. It would cramp up."

Guests:

Linda Ronstadt
News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [16]

Bob from Port Orchard (Seattle) WA

Not just everybody can pull off a Roy Orbison song, but Linda's version of "Blue Bayou" stands the test of time and quality. Everything she ever recorded has been and continues to be great listening.

Apr. 14 2014 02:20 PM
Gonzalo from Washington, DC

"Linda Ronstadt is special, and yet she went to South Africa. She is special, and yet she chose to perform in a reviled racist country. She is special, and yet she gave six concerts in the cradle of apartheid. She is special, and yet she lent her talents to an especially mean place. She is special, and yet she allowed her very specialness to be exploited by an outlaw nation in search of legitimacy. Her special price: $500,000." - Rolling Stone

Feb. 06 2014 10:28 PM
Joy

Linda you sound great I grew up listening to you and loving all your sound trax. I also love Mexico and the Mexican people, I agree with you that their work ethic and unique intelligence and years of struggling in their country here and around the world has made for unfortunate stereo typing. I wish you success in exposing this and welcoming the Mexican music along with the Mexican people and culture to New York for years to come. Good luck with your health and please don't stop singing!

Oct. 08 2013 08:58 AM
kraig from Long Island

Linda Ronstadt's humility is almost as unusual for a performer of her renown as the pure natural beauty of her instrument. There is a collective sorrow from a generation of fans because she was always a three dimensional pin-up gal with killer pipes - that for all her mega stardom seemed unchanged ego wise from her small club days. Even when she played Sun City, unlike Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Queen, Sinatra, and dozens others who played the mixed race casino, she took along a journalist and questioned the decision publicly. The phoney working class hero act by so many from her rock and roll era - yeah I mean Springsteen has bored me for years. The memoir is a pleasurable, engaging dare I say groovy read. A southwestern gal with tales of everyone from Jim Morrison to Rosemary Clooney and Charles Manson and Kermit the frog in between - Linda we luv you. Thank you Leonard for the interview.

Sep. 22 2013 02:55 PM
mitch from New York City

Lovely interview and so sorry Ms Ronstadt cannot sing any longer. A loss to her and to us. Leonard Lopate is the best interviewer known to man. He is so learned and articulate and incisive and I could go on and on. I am a big fan.

Sep. 19 2013 09:42 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Bebe, with all due respect. Your comments come off as rather naive and rather condescending at times.

I did qualify my previous comments with "paid."

There is nothing nuanced between an artist working with other (independent) artists from country with a vile government - this case South Africa, as Mr Simon did and Ms. Ronstadt, who got paid buckets of cash, to perform at Sun City - during the height of an evil system.

As a child of the 80's, watching dogs biting into the dark skin of people whose only crime was, asking for dignity of being treated like a human being in their own country; no documentary, will "change my feelings a bit" - sorry.

Sep. 18 2013 03:30 PM
Joel Hubbard from Long Island

"Dear friends and gentle hearts," a parting note from an unsung American genius. Dear Ms.Ronstadt I cried when heard of your personal loss,I've seen the beauty of your musical brilliance touch so many hearts with such depth over the years.A voice so generosity shared is a gift everlasting.I Thank you for bringing so much joy across the musical generations and cultures. Bless your creative genius and you! Be Well!

Sep. 18 2013 01:48 PM
Bebe from Queens

What an articulate, candid, humble and intelligent woman! I've always loved Linda's singing and now I love her as a person too.

Comment to Sheldon from Brooklyn: Try to locate the PBS documentary about Paul Simon and the making of Graceland. It will give you a perspective that could change your feelings a bit. It doesn't let Paul off the hook but it demonstrates that the situation, especially for the African musicians themselves, was much more ambivalent and nuanced than you might think.

Sep. 18 2013 01:21 PM
Larry from Nyack

Does Ms. Ronstadt like Cuban music? How does she see the musical differences with Mexican music? Does she like Celia Cruz' music?

Sep. 18 2013 01:20 PM
RJ from prospect hts

I hope Ms. Ronstadt knows about the Dance for Parkinson's Disease at the Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn. Per the Web site: "In Dance for PD® classes, participants are empowered to explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating and creative. . .

"English research study shows benefits of dance for persons with PD
"January 15, 2013, 11:58 am
" Newly-published research on dance and Parkinson’s, conducted by Sara Houston and Ashley McGill, suggests that dance temporarily relieves some symptoms of Parkinson’s and aids short term mobility, as well as contributing to social inclusion and artistic expression.The English National Ballet and Roehampton University co-commissioned the study, which was published in Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice. "

http://danceforparkinsons.org/

Sep. 18 2013 01:18 PM
Amy from Manhattan (compulsive harmonizer)

What kind of vocal things did singing w/Aaron Neville let Ms. Ronstadt do that she couldn't have otherwise? Was it just the fact of singing w/him, or did he help her learn them?

I'm sorry she has Parkinson's, & that's it's made her unable to sing. Her speaking voice still sounds good, & I hope that continues.

Sep. 18 2013 01:17 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

A gracious and intelligent lady. I especially appreciated her comments on and love for other arts: literature, classical music, ballet, etc.

If only her fans shared her own curiosity away from the narrow rock idiom, a common legacy of her and others' celebrity (not her fault however.)

Sep. 18 2013 01:14 PM
mark

second time this week (earlier on Fresh Air) I've heard Ms. R interviewed. heartbreaking, and she handles it with grace.

Sep. 18 2013 01:00 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Looking forward to reading the book. As a kid, I loved tooling around Ronstadt’s Hardware (pardon the pun) in downtown Tucson, which carried everything from tacks to tractors.

Sep. 18 2013 12:54 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Great talent.. I will never forgive her for doing paid gigs in apartheid South Africa though.

Sep. 18 2013 12:50 PM
Tish from NYC

Oh, Ms. Ronstadt, you sang the soundtrack of my late teens and 20's. I so love your voice and admire your career. Best of luck as you face this health challenge.

Sep. 18 2013 12:48 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.