Happy Birthday to Linda Ronstadt, who turns 71 on Saturday (July 15th)!!! Despite being born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Ronstadt, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, came to embody the ’70s California soft-rock sound, alongside such acts as the Eagles and Jackson Browne. In 2013, Ronstadt published her autobiography, called Simple Dreams, via Simon And Schuster. The book chronicled her early years, her ’70s super-stardom, her 1980’s career on Broadway, recording standards — and eventually Mexican folk music, all leading up to her 2009 retirement from the business.
In the book, Ronstadt, who has since revealed that she’s battling Parkinson’s disease and is unable to sing anymore, has chosen to take the high road by focusing first and foremost on her musical journey, rather than the seamier portions of her personal life. In 2015, Linda Ronstadt received the prestigious National Medal of Arts from President Obama at the White House.
Coming on September 22nd will be the 40th anniversary expanded edition of Ronstadt’s chart-topping Simple Dreams album. Simple Dreams, which was produced by Peter Asher, hit Number One on December 3rd, 1977. The five-week chart-topper snagged Ronstadt three Top 40 hits, with her cover of Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” peaking at Number Three, her remake of Buddy Holly’s “It’s So Easy” hitting Number Five, and her version of good friend Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” topping out at Number 31. The new collection features three live 1980 recordings of the album’s classic hits.
Linda Ronstadt, who is of Mexican and German heritage, first broke on the scene in 1967 with her group the Stone Poneys, who scored a Top 20 hit with “Different Drum,” which was written by the Monkees’ Mike Nesmith. Ronstadt went solo soon afterwards, and her initial solo back up band included Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner, who went on to become the Eagles.
Although Ronstadt did write some of her own music, all of her biggest hits were covers. Among her most famous hits were her versions of the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved,” Martha Reeves & The Vandellas’ “Heat Wave,” Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “The Tracks Of My Tears,” Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” Chuck Berry’s “Back In The U.S.A.,” Buddy Holly’s “It’s So Easy,” and the Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice.” In the late-’80’s and early-’90s she scored such duet hits with Aaron Neville on “I Don’t Know Much” and James Ingram on “Somewhere Out There.”
In later years, Ronstadt branched out into theatre, appearing on Broadway in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates Of Penzance, recording a trio of standards albums with legendary arranger Nelson Riddle, doing two country albums with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, a trio of albums of traditional Mexican music, and an album of lullabies.
Throughout the years, Ronstadt has been linked romantically to many high-profiled suitors, including then-California Governor Jerry Brown; musicians such as Gram Parsons and the Eagles’ Don Henley; actors Bill Murray, Albert Brooks, and Jim Carrey; and director George Lucas.
As a single mother, Ronstadt has adopted two children, Carlos and Mary.
Linda Ronstadt says that she has mixed emotions on every facet of her career: “My music has always been 80 percent private music and twenty percent what I did for the public, but the public part of it just became so dominant, and I. . . it didn’t need to be that way. And I, y’know, I’ve done it, I’ve been on the road. I’ve had an unusually long career. Most people’s career’s (laughing), don’t last as long as mine and nobody would want to, unless you’re mentally imbalanced. Nobody would want to keep going out on the road. It’s a horrible. . . it’s not a nice existence. There’s nothing natural about it.”
Ronstadt’s last album was her 2006 collaboration Adieu False Heart with Ann Savoy.
In May 2009 Ronstadt — along with Smokey Robinson and merengue pioneer Juan Luis Guerra — was awarded an honorary degree at Boston’s Berklee School of Music’s graduation.
Recently released is Linda Ronstadt’s latest compilation, Duets. The collection, which spans Ronstadt’s entire career includes team-ups with Don Henley, J.D. Souther, Emmylou Harris, James Taylor, Dolly Parton, Aaron Neville, Bette Midler, James Ingram, and “The Chairman Of The Board” himself — Frank Sinatra, among others.
Photo Courtesy of The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame