CULTURE: Linda Ronstadt and Parkinson’s

Linda Ronstadt says that Parkinson’s Disease has robbed her of her singing voice.

This is such sad news. Linda Ronstadt is one of America’s greatest pop singers and has been since the 1970s.

Heart Like a Wheel was a profound album, with enormous impact, I always thought. (Dark End of the Street  just kills)

It was huge in the guitar twangin’ country rock scene of my hometown of Claremont, California in the 1970s and we played the hell out of it at my house when I was growing up. It contained one of my favorite songs from that genre, Willin’, by the master, Lowell George.

The album was the first inkling, too, of a talent Linda Ronstadt displayed throughout her career of finding good songs and songwriters.

She was an early adopter of Warren Zevon, for one. Zevon’s Carmelita is one of the most evocative songs ever of Los Angeles; in this case, the 1970s street junkie scene in Echo Park. Simple, succinct, image-based songwriting, and thus great storytelling.

The other fine thing about Linda Ronstadt the singer is how she started out in California country rock, but early on refused to be pigeon-holed. That can’t have been easy for a woman in the music industry.

Instead, she recorded big band music, oldies, Mexican rancheros and just a lot of solid straight pop music.

Through Canciones de mi Padre I discovered Cuco Sanchez, with Gritenme Piedras del Campo – a Mexican blues if ever there was one. (Cuco Sanchez is, btw, a singer not to be missed.)

Her work with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton is some of the best stuff any of those ladies have done. Check out For a Dancer, the song by Jackson Browne, that she recorded with Emmylou.

We’ll not be hearing her likes around here for a while, I believe.

On a personal note, Linda Ronstadt has always been so supportive of my writing and reporting. I can’t say how wonderful it is to have spoken to one of the icons of my musical generation and have her tell me how much she loved my books.

I appreciated it enormously and lived on it like food for a few days.

My Claremont High School pal, Janet Stark, her assistant, put us in touch. Thanks Janet and thanks very much to you, Linda. Here’s wishing you the best.

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