There are those who are just good singers. “Just” isn’t meant to be pejorative; certainly we welcome all the good singers we can find. Heaven knows there are enough bad ones. But the true artists, the people we return to year after year know how to interpret songs. They make us feel them as well as hear them. That’s what I love about Linda Ronstadt.
Ronstadt has excelled in several musical genres. She made her name as a rock singer, but she’s also excelled interpreting standards, in country-rock, in Latin, and in Gilbert and Sullivan on Broadway.
The first we heard of her on the national stage was with her band The Stone Poneys. They had one top 20 hit, “Different Drum.” She went solo in 1969, and became the leading female pop singer of the 1970s. Her hits included “You’re No Good,” “When Will I Be Loved,” “Heat Wave,” “That’ll Be the Day,” “Blue Bayou,” “It’s So Easy,” “Ooh, Baby Baby,” and “Hurt So Bad.”
She then took what was an unusual leap at the time, recording songs from the Great American Songbook with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. She recorded three albums – What’s New, Lush Life, and For Sentimental Reasons – that combined to sell more than 7 million copies in the U.S. alone.
Then in 1987 Ronstadt drew upon her family’s Mexican heritage to record the album Canciones di me Padre. Though she was born in Arizona and lived all her life in America, Ronstadt has described herself as a Mexican-American. The album was well received, and achieved double platinum status.
She has won Grammys and an Emmy, and been nominated for a Tony and Golden Globe. Two of her albums were selected among Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. And VH1 had her at number 21 in the 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll.