An American popular music singer. She has earned 11 Grammy Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy Award, an ALMA Award and numerous United States and internationally certified gold, platinum and multiplatinum albums. She has also earned nominations for a Tony Award and a Golden Globe award.
Ronstadt has collaborated with artists from a diverse spectrum of genres including Billy Eckstine, Frank Zappa, Rosemary Clooney, Flaco Jiménez, Philip Glass, Carla Bley, The Chieftains, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Dolly Parton, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, and Nelson Riddle. She has lent her voice to over 120 albums. Christopher Loudon of Jazz Times noted in 2004, Ronstadt is "Blessed with arguably the most sterling set of pipes of her generation ... rarest of rarities—a chameleon who can blend into any background yet remain boldly distinctive ... It's an exceptional gift; one shared by few others."
In total, she has released over 30 studio albums and 15 compilations or greatest hits albums. Ronstadt charted 38 Billboard Hot 100 singles, with 21 reaching the top 40, 10 in the top 10, three at #2 and "You're No Good" at #1. In the UK, her single "Blue Bayou" reached the UK Top 40 and the duet with Aaron Neville, "Don't Know Much", peaked at No. 2 in December 1989. In addition, she has charted 36 albums, 10 top-10 albums and three #1 albums on the Billboard Pop Album Charts.
In a 2011 interview with the Arizona Daily Star she said "I am 100 percent retired and I'm not doing anything any more". In 2013 she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, which left her unable to sing.
Linda Ronstadt was born in Tucson, Arizona, in 1946 to Gilbert Ronstadt (1911–1995), a prosperous machinery merchant who ran the F. Ronstadt Co., and Ruth Mary Copeman Ronstadt (1914–1982), a homemaker .
Ronstadt was raised on the family's 10-acre (4.0 ha) ranch with siblings Peter (who served as Tucson's Chief of Police for ten years, 1981–1991), Michael J. and Gretchen (Suzi). The family was featured in Family Circle magazine in 1953.
Linda's father Gilbert came from a pioneering Arizona ranching family and was of German and English American descent, with some Mexican ancestry. Their influence and contributions to Arizona's history, including wagon making, commerce, pharmacies and music, are chronicled in the library of the University of Arizona. Linda Ronstadt's great-grandfather, graduate engineer Friedrich August Ronstadt (who went by the name Federico Augusto Ronstadt) immigrated to the West (then a part of Mexico) in the 1840s from Hanover, Germany, and married a Mexican citizen, and eventually settled in Tucson.
In 1991, the City of Tucson opened its central transit terminal on March 16 and dedicated it to Linda's grandfather, local pioneer businessman Federico José María Ronstadt. Ronstadt was a wagon maker whose early contribution to the city's mobility included six mule-drawn streetcars delivered in 1903–04.
Her mother Ruth Mary, of German, English, and Dutch descent, was raised in the Flint, Michigan, area. She was the daughter of Lloyd Groff Copeman, a prolific inventor and holder of many patents. Lloyd, with nearly 700 patents to his name, invented an early form of the toaster, many refrigerator devices, the grease gun, the first electric stove, and an early form of the microwave oven. His flexible rubber ice cube tray earned him millions of dollars in royalties.
Establishing her professional career in the mid-1960s at the forefront of California's emerging folk rock and country rock movements, genres which later defined post-60s rock music, Linda Ronstadt joined forces with Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards and became the lead singer of a folk rock trio, The Stone Poneys. Later, as a solo artist, she released Hand Sown ... Home Grown in 1969, which has been described as the first alternative country record by a female recording artist. Although fame eluded her during these years, Ronstadt actively toured with The Doors, Neil Young, Jackson Browne and others, made numerous television show appearances, and began to contribute her voice to a variety of albums.
However, with the release of chart-topping albums such as Heart Like a Wheel, Simple Dreams, and Living in the USA, coupled with the fact that Ronstadt became the first female "arena class" rock star, she set records as one of the top-grossing concert artists of the decade. Referred to as "First Lady of Rock" and the "Queen of Rock", Ronstadt was voted the Top Female Pop Singer of the 1970s. Her rock-and-roll image was equally as famous as her music, appearing six times on the cover of Rolling Stone, as well as Newsweek and Time covers.
In the 1980s, Ronstadt went to Broadway, garnered a Tony nomination, teamed with composer Philip Glass, recorded traditional music, and collaborated with famed conductor Nelson Riddle, an event at that time viewed as an original and unorthodox move for a rock-and-roll artist. This venture paid off, and Ronstadt remained one of the music industry's best-selling acts throughout the 1980s with multi-platinum-selling albums such as What's New, Canciones de Mi Padre and Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind. Ronstadt has continued to tour, collaborate, and record celebrated albums, such as Winter Light, and Hummin' to Myself. Ronstadt's thirty-plus album catalog continue to be best-sellers, with the vast majority of them certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum.
Having sold in excess of 100 million records worldwide and setting records as one of the top-grossing concert performers for over a decade, Linda Ronstadt was the most successful female singer of the 1970s and stands as one of the most successful female recording artists in United States history. A consummate American artist, Ronstadt opened many doors for women in rock and roll and other musical genres by championing songwriters and musicians, pioneering her chart success onto the concert circuit, and being at the vanguard of many musical movements.
Linda Ronstadt's early family life was filled with music and tradition, which influenced the stylistic and musical choices she later made in her career. Growing up, she listened to many types of music, including Mexican music, which was sung by her entire family and was a staple in her childhood. Ronstadt has remarked that everything she has recorded on her own records—rock 'n' roll, jazz, rhythm and blues, gospel, opera, country, choral, and mariachi—is all music she heard her family sing in their living room, or heard played on the radio, by the age of 10.
She credits her mother for her appreciation of Gilbert and Sullivan and her father for introducing her to the traditional pop and Great American Songbook repertoire that she would, in turn, help reintroduce to an entire generation. Early on, her singing style had been influenced by singers such as Lola Beltrán and Édith Piaf; she has called their singing and rhythms "more like Greek music ... It's sort of like 6/8 time signature ... very hard driving and very intense."
She also drew influence from country singer Hank Williams. She has said that "all girl singers" eventually "have to curtsy to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday". Of Maria Callas, Ronstadt says, "There's no one in her league. That's it. Period. I learn more ... about singing rock n roll from listening to Maria Callas records than I ever would from listening to pop music for a month of Sundays.... She's the greatest chick singer ever." She admires Callas for her musicianship and her attempts to push 20th-century singing, particularly opera, back into the Bel canto "natural style of singing". A self-described product of American radio of the 1950s and '60s, Ronstadt is a fan of its eclectic and diverse music programming.
Beginning of professional career
At 14, Ronstadt formed a folk trio with her brother Peter and sister Suzy. The group played coffeehouses, fraternity houses, and other small venues, billing themselves as "The Union City Ramblers" and "The Three Ronstadts", and they even recorded themselves at a Tucson studio under the name "The New Union Ramblers". Their repertoire included the music they grew up on—folk, country, bluegrass, and Mexican. But increasingly, Ronstadt wanted to make a union of folk music and rock 'n' roll, and in 1964, after a semester at college (sources differ between Tucson's University of Arizona and Arizona State University, the 18-year old decided to move to Los Angeles.
The Stone Poneys
Main article: Stone Poneys
Linda visited a friend from Tucson, Bobby Kimmel, in Los Angeles during Easter break from college in 1964, and later that year, shortly before her eighteenth birthday, decided to move there permanently to form a band with him. Kimmel had already begun co-writing folk-rock songs with guitarist-songwriter Kenny Edwards, and eventually the three of them were signed by Nik Venet to Capitol in the summer of 1966 as "The Stone Poneys". The trio released three albums in a 15-month period in 1967–68: The Stone Poneys; Evergreen, Volume 2; and Linda Ronstadt, Stone Poneys and Friends, Vol. III. The band is best known for their hit single "Different Drum" (written and composed by Michael Nesmith prior to his joining the Monkees), which reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as well as No. 12 in Cashbox magazine. More than 45 years later, the song remains one of Ronstadt's most popular recordings.
Besides recording one of her most enduring songs, Linda Ronstadt was already showcasing her highly expressive performance of an eclectic mix of songs, often from under-appreciated songwriters, utilizing a wide array of backing musicians. Additionally, many of her songs, including "Different Drum", were written and composed by male songwriters and had minimal lyric changes, allowing Ronstadt to toy with gender roles that were in ferment in the 1960s and 1970s. While the Stone Poneys broke up before the release of their third album, Kenny Edwards recorded and toured with Ronstadt from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s.
In 2008 Australia's Raven Records released a compilation CD titled The Stone Poneys. The disc features all tracks from the first two Stone Poneys albums and four tracks from the third album.
Still contractually obligated to Capitol Records, Ronstadt released her first solo album, Hand Sown ... Home Grown, in 1969. It has been called the first alternative country record by a female recording artist. During this same period, she contributed to the Music From Free Creek "super session" project.
Ronstadt provided the vocals for some commercials during this period, including one for Remington electric razors, in which a multitracked Ronstadt and Frank Zappa claimed that the electric razor "cleans you, thrills you ... may even keep you from getting busted".
Ronstadt's second solo album, Silk Purse, was released in March 1970. Recorded entirely in Nashville, it was produced by Elliot Mazer, whom Ronstadt chose on the advice of Janis Joplin, who had worked with him on her Cheap Thrills album. The Silk Purse album cover showed Ronstadt in a muddy pigpen, while the back and inside cover depicted her onstage wearing bright red. Ronstadt has stated that she was not pleased with the album, although it provided her with her first solo hit, the multi-format single "Long Long Time", and earned her first Grammy nomination (for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance/Female).
"Judy Henske, who was the then reigning queen of folk music, said to me at The Troubadour, 'Honey, in this town there are four sexes. Men, women, homosexuals, and girl singers.'"
In a 1976 Rolling Stone interview with Cameron Crowe, Ronstadt explained that "they haven't invented a word for that loneliness that everybody goes through on the road. The world is tearing by you, real fast, and all these people are looking at you.... People see me in my 'girl-singer' suit." In 1974 she told Peter Knobler in Crawdaddy, "People are always taking advantage of you; everybody that's interested in you has got an angle."
Several years before Ronstadt became what author Gerri Hirshey called the first "arena-class rock diva", with "hugely anticipated tours", she began her solo career touring the North American concert circuit. But being on the road took its toll both emotionally and professionally. There were few "girl singers" on the Rock circuit at the time, and those that were, were relegated to "groupie level when in a crowd of a bunch of rock and roll guys", a status Ronstadt avoided. Relating to men on a professional level as fellow musicians led to competition, insecurity, bad romances, and a series of boyfriend-managers. At the time, she admired singers like Maria Muldaur for not sacrificing their femininity, but says she felt enormous self-imposed pressure to compete with "the boys" at every level. She noted in a 1969 interview in Fusion magazine that it was difficult being a single "chick singer" with an all-male backup band. According to her, it was difficult to get a band of backing musicians because of their ego problem of being labeled sidemen for a female singer.
Soon after she went solo in the late 1960s, one of her first backing bands was the pioneering country-rock band Swampwater, famous for synthesizing Cajun and swamp-rock elements into their music. Its members included Cajun fiddler Gib Guilbeau and John Beland, who later joined The Flying Burrito Brothers, as well as Stan Pratt, Thad Maxwell and Eric White, brother of Clarence White of The Byrds. Swampwater went on to back Ronstadt during TV appearances on The Johnny Cash Show and The Mike Douglas Show, and at the Big Sur Folk Festival.
Another backing band featured players Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner, who went on to form the Eagles. They toured with her for a short period in 1971 and played on Linda Ronstadt, her self-titled third album, from which the failed single, Ronstadt's version of Browne's "Rock Me On the Water was drawn. At this stage, Ronstadt began working with producer and boyfriend John Boylan. She said, "As soon as I started working with John Boylan, I started co-producing myself. I was always a part of my productions. But I always needed a producer who would carry out my whims." Also in 1971, Ronstadt began talking with David Geffen about moving from Capitol Records to Geffen's Asylum Records label.
Collaborations with Peter Asher
"In general when you fall in love with an artist and their music, the plan is a fairly simple one. .. get people to go and see them, and make a record that you think properly presents their music to the public and some of which you can get on the radio."
Peter Asher, on collaborating with Ronstadt
Ronstadt began her fourth solo album, Don't Cry Now, in 1973, with Boylan (who had negotiated her contract with Asylum Records) and John David "J.D." Souther producing most of the album's tracks. But needing someone willing to work with her as an equal, Ronstadt asked Peter Asher, who came highly recommended to her by James Taylor's sister Kate Taylor, to help her produce two of them: "Sail Away" and "I Believe in You." The album featured Linda's first Country hit, "Silver Threads and Golden Needles", which she had first recorded on Hand Sown ... Home Grown; this time hitting the Country Top 20. With the release of Don't Cry Now, Ronstadt took on her biggest gig to date as the opening act on Neil Young's Time Fades Away tour, playing for larger crowds than ever before. Backstage at a concert in Texas, Chris Hillman introduced her to Emmylou Harris, telling them, "You two could be good friends", which soon occurred, resulting in frequent collaborations over the following years. Meanwhile, the album became Ronstadt's most successful up to this time, selling 300,000 copies by the end of 1974.
Asher turned out to be more collaborative, and more on the same page with her musically, than any producer she had worked with previously. Ronstadt's professional relationship with Asher allowed her to take command and effectively delegate responsibilities in the recording studio. Although hesitant at first to work with her because of her reputation for being a "woman of strong opinions (who) knew what she wanted to do (with her career)", he nonetheless agreed to become her full-time producer, and remained in that role through the late 1980s. Asher attributed the long-term success of his working relationship with Ronstadt to the fact that he was the first person to manage and produce her with whom there was a solely professional relationship. "It must be a lot harder to have objective conversations about someone's career when it's someone you sleep with", he said.
Asher executive produced a tribute CD called Listen to Me: Buddy Holly, released September 6, 2011, on which Ronstadt's 1976 version of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be The Day" appears among newly recorded versions of Holly's songs by various artists.
"I grew up singing Mexican music, and that's based on indigenous Mexican rhythms. Mexican music also has an overlay of West African music, based on huapango drums, and it's kind of like a 6/8 time signature, but it really is a very syncopated 6/8. And that's how I attack vocals."
Linda Ronstadt, on reconciling her musical instincts with rock 'n' roll.
Ronstadt captured the sounds of country music and the rhythms of ranchera music—which she likened in 1968 to "Mexican bluegrass"—and redirected them into her rock 'n' roll and some of her pop music. Many of these rhythms and sounds were part of her Southwestern roots. Likewise, a country sound and style, a fusing of country music and rock 'n' roll called Country rock, started to exert its influence on mainstream pop music around the late 1960s, and it became an emerging movement Ronstadt helped form and commercialize. However, as early as 1970, Ronstadt was being criticized by music "purists" for her "brand of music" which crossed many genres. Country Western Stars magazine wrote in 1970 that "Rock people thought she was too gentle, folk people thought she was too pop, and pop people didn't quite understand where she was at, but Country people really loved Linda." She never categorized herself and stuck to her genre-crossing brand of music.
Ronstadt is considered an "interpreter of her times", and has earned praise for her courage to put her own unique "stamp" on many of these songs. Although many of her hits were criticized for being cover songs, they were the songs the record companies elected to cull and release off the albums. More importantly, Linda Ronstadt became a highly successful "Albums Artist", some of which contain material written by her. Ronstadt's natural vocal range spans several octaves from contralto to soprano, and occasionally she will showcase this entire range within a single work. Ronstadt was the first female artist in popular music history to accumulate four consecutive platinum albums (fourteen certified million selling, to date). As for the singles, Rolling Stone Magazine pointed out that a whole generation, "but for her, might never have heard the work of artists such as Buddy Holly, Elvis Costello, and Chuck Berry."
""Music is meant to lighten your load. By singing it ... you release (the sadness). And release yourself ... an exercise in exorcism.... You exorcise that emotion ... and diminish sadness and feel joy."
Others have argued that Ronstadt had the same generational effect with her Great American Songbook music, exposing a whole new generation to the music of the 1920s and '30s—music which, ironically, was pushed aside because of the advent of rock 'n' roll. When interpreting, Ronstadt said she "sticks to what the music demands", in terms of lyrics. Explaining that rock and roll music is part of her culture, she says that the songs she sang after her rock and roll hits were part of her soul. "The (Mariachi music) was my father's side of the soul", she was quoted as saying in a 1998 interview she gave at her Tucson home. "My mother's side of my soul was the Nelson Riddle stuff. And I had to do them both in order to reestablish who I was."
In the 1974 book Rock 'N' Roll Woman, author Katherine Orloff writes that Ronstadt's "own musical preferences run strongly to rhythm and blues, the type of music she most frequently chooses to listen to ... (and) her goal is to ... be soulful too. With this in mind, Ronstadt fuses country and rock into a special union."
By this stage of her career, Ronstadt had established her niche in the field of country-rock. Along with other musicians such as The Flying Burrito Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Swampwater, Neil Young, and the Eagles, she helped free country music from stereotypes and showed rockers that country was OK. However, she stated that she was being pushed hard into singing more rock and roll.
Most successful female singer of the 1970s
Author Andrew Greeley, in his book God in Popular Culture, described Ronstadt as "the most successful and certainly the most durable and most gifted woman Rock singer of her era."
Signaling her wide popularity as a concert artist, outside of the singles charts and the recording studio, Dirty Linen magazine describes her as the "first true woman rock 'n' roll superstar ... (selling) out stadiums with a string of mega-successful albums." Amazon.com defines her as the American female rock superstar of the decade.Cashbox gave Ronstadt a Special Decade Award, as the top selling female singer of the 1970s. Her album covers, posters, magazine covers — her entire rock 'n' roll image — were as famous as her music. By the end of the decade, the singer whom the Chicago Sun Times described as the "Dean of the 1970s school of female rock singers" became what Redbook called "the most successful female rock star in the world." "Female" was the important qualifier, according to Time magazine, which labeled her "a rarity ... to (have survived) ... in the shark-infested deeps of rock."
Although Ronstadt had been a cult favorite on the music scene for several years, 1975 was "remembered in the music biz as the year when 29-year-old Linda Ronstadt belatedly happened." With the release of Heart Like A Wheel, Ronstadt reached No. 1 on the Billboard Album Chart (it was also the first of four No. 1 Country Albums for Ronstadt) and the disc was certified Double-Platinum (over 2 million copies sold in the United States).
In many instances, her own interpretations were more successful than the original recordings, and many times new songwriters were discovered by a larger audience as a result of Ronstadt's interpreting and recording their songs. Interestingly, Ronstadt had major success interpreting songs from a diverse spectrum of artists. This skill would eventually serve her later in her career, as a master song interpreter.
Heart Like A Wheel's first single release was "You're No Good"—a rockified version of an R&B song written by Clint Ballard, Jr. that Ronstadt had initially resisted because Andrew Gold's guitar tracks sounded too much like a "Beatles song" to her—climbed to No. 1 on both the Billboard and Cash Box Pop singles charts. The album's second single release was "When Will I Be Loved" — an uptempo Country Rock version of a Top 10 Everly Brothers song—hit No. 1 in Cashbox and No. 2 in Billboard. The song was also Linda's first No. 1 Country hit.
The album showed a physically attractive Ronstadt on the cover but, more importantly, its critical and commercial success was due to a fine presentation of country and rock with Heart Like A Wheel, her first of many major commercial successes that would set her on the path to being one of the best-selling female artists of all time. Ronstadt won her first Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance/Female for "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)" which was originally a 1940s hit by Hank Williams. Ronstadt's interpretation peaked at No. 2 on the Country charts. The album itself was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy as well as the Best Pop Vocal Performance/Female trophy.
Rolling Stone magazine put Ronstadt on its cover in March 1975. This was the first of six Rolling Stone magazine covers shot by photographer Annie Leibovitz. It included her as the featured artist with a full photo layout and an article by Ben Fong-Torres, discussing Ronstadt's many struggling years in rock n roll, as well as her home life and what it was like to be a woman on tour in a decidedly all-male environment.
In September 1975, Ronstadt's album Prisoner In Disguise was released. It quickly climbed into the Top Five on the Billboard Album Chart and sold over a million copies. It became her second in a row to go platinum, "a grand slam" in the same year (Ronstadt would eventually be the first female artist in popular music history to have three consecutive platinum albums and would ultimately go on to have eight consecutive platinum albums, and then another six between 1983 and 1990).
The disc's first single release was "Love Is A Rose". It was climbing the Pop and Country charts but Heat Wave, a rockified version of the 1963 hit by Martha and the Vandellas, was receiving considerable airplay. Asylum pulled the "Love Is A Rose" single and issued "Heat Wave" with "Love Is A Rose" on the B-side. "Heat Wave" hit the Top Five on Billboard's Hot 100 while "Love Is A Rose" hit the Top Five on Billboard's Country chart.
In 1976, Ronstadt reached the Top 3 of Billboard's Album Chart and won her second career Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her third consecutive platinum album Hasten Down The Wind. The album featured a sexy, revealing cover shot and showcased Ronstadt the singer-songwriter, who composed two of its songs, "Try Me Again" and "Lo Siento Mi Vida". It also included an interpretation of Willie Nelson's classic "Crazy", which became a Top 10 Country hit for Ronstadt in early 1977.
At the end of 1977, Ronstadt surpassed the success of Heart Like A Wheel with her album Simple Dreams, which held the No. 1 position for five consecutive weeks on the Billboard Album Chart. It also knocked Elvis Presley out of No. 1 on Billboard's Country Albums chart. It sold over 3½ million copies in less than a year in the U.S. alone. The album was released in September 1977, and by December it had replaced Fleetwood Mac's long running No. 1 album Rumours in the top spot.
Simple Dreams spawned a string of hit singles on numerous charts. Among them were the RIAA platinum-certified single "Blue Bayou", a Country Rock interpretation of a Roy Orbison song, "It's So Easy"—previously sung by Buddy Holly — and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", a song written by Warren Zevon, an up-and-coming songwriter of the time whom Ronstadt elected to highlight and record. The album garnered several Grammy Award nominations—including Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance/Female for "Blue Bayou"—and won its art director, Kosh, a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, the first of three Grammy Awards he would win for designing Ronstadt album covers.
Simple Dreams became one of the singer's best selling international selling albums as well, reaching No. 1 on the Australian and Canadian Pop and Country Albums charts. Simple Dreams also made Ronstadt the most successful international female touring artist as well. The same year, she completed a concert tour around Europe. As Country Music Magazine wrote in October 1978, Simple Dreams solidified Ronstadt's role as "easily the most successful female rock and roll and country star at this time."
Also in 1977, she was asked by the Los Angeles Dodgers to sing the U.S. National Anthem at game three of the World Series against the New York Yankees.
Ronstadt has remarked that she felt as though she was "artificially encouraged to kinda cop a really tough attitude (and be tough) because rock and roll is kind of tough (business)," which she felt wasn't worn quite authentically. Female rock artists like her and Janis Joplin, whom she described as lovely, shy and very literate in real life and the antithesis of the "red hot mamma" she was artificially encouraged to project, went through an identity crisis.
Eventually, Ronstadt's rock-and-roll image became just as famous as her music by the mid-1970s. The 1977 appearance on the cover of Time magazine under the banner "Torchy Rock" was controversial for Ronstadt, considering what the image appeared to project about the most famous woman in rock. At a time in the industry when men still told women what to sing and what to wear, Ronstadt hated the image of her that was projected to the world on that cover, and she noted recently how the photographer kept forcing her to wear a dress, which was an image she did not want to project (although she wore a rather revealing dress for the cover of Hasten Down the Wind, which projected an image of her not all that different from the Time magazine cover.
In 2004, she was interviewed for CBS This Morning and stated that this image was not her because she didn't sit like that. Asher noted, "Anyone who's met Linda for 10 seconds will know that I couldn't possibly have been her Svengali. She's an extremely determined woman, in every area. To me, she was everything that feminism's about." Qualities which, Asher has stated, were considered a "negative (in a woman at that time), whereas in a man they were perceived as being masterful and bold". Since her solo career began, Ronstadt has fought hard to be recognized as a solo female singer in the world of rock, and her portrayal on the Time cover didn't appear to help the situation. It was in 1976 that Rolling Stone published in its cover story an alluring collection of photographs taken by Annie Leibovitz, which helped to further the image that Ronstadt later said she wasn't pleased with. Ronstadt and Asher claim to have viewed the photos prior to publication and, when their request that the photos be removed was denied, they unceremoniously threw Leibovitz out of the house.
In 1978 Rolling Stone magazine declared Ronstadt, "by far America's best-known female rock singer." She scored a third No. 1 album on the Billboard Album Chart – unsurpassed by any female artist at this point in time – with Living in the USA. Linda achieved a major hit single with "Ooh Baby Baby," with her rendition hitting all four major singles charts (Pop, AC, Country and R&B). Living in the USA was the first album by any recording act in music history to ship double-platinum (over 2 million advance copies). The album eventually sold 3 million U.S. copies.
At the end of that year, Billboard magazine crowned Linda Ronstadt with three No. 1 Awards for the Year: No. 1 Pop Female Singles Artist of the Year, No. 1 Pop Female Album Artist of the Year, and No. 1 Female Artist of the Year (overall).
Living in the USA showed the singer on roller skates with a newly short, permed hairdo on the album cover. Ronstadt continued this theme on concert tour promotional posters with photos of her on roller skates in a dramatic pose with a large American flag in the background. By this stage of her career, she was using posters to promote every album and concert – which at the time were recorded live on radio or TV. Ronstadt was also featured in the 1978 film FM, where the plot involved disc jockeys attempting to broadcast a Linda Ronstadt concert live, without a competing station's knowledge. The movie also showed Ronstadt performing the songs "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me," "Love Me Tender," and "Tumbling Dice". Ronstadt was persuaded to record "Tumbling Dice" after Mick Jagger came backstage when she was at a concert and said, "You do too many ballads, you should do more rock and roll songs."
Following the success of Living in the USA, Ronstadt conducted album promotional tours and concerts. Ronstadt made a guest appearance onstage with The Rolling Stones at the Tucson Community Center on July 21, 1978, in her hometown of Tucson, where Ronstadt and Mick Jagger sang "Tumbling Dice." On singing with Jagger, Ronstadt later said, "I loved it. I didn't have a trace of stage fright. I'm scared to death all the way through my own shows. But it was too much fun to get scared. He's so silly onstage, he knocks you over. I mean you have to be on your toes or you wind up falling on your face."
By the end of 1978, Ronstadt had solidified her role as one of rock and pop's most successful solo female acts, and owing to her consistent platinum album success, and her ability as the first-ever woman to sell out concerts in arenas and stadiums hosting tens of thousands of fans, Ronstadt became the "highest paid woman in rock". She had six platinum certified albums, three of which went to No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, and numerous charted Pop singles. In 1978 alone, she made over $12 million (equivalent to $43,000,000 in today's dollars) and in the same year her albums sales were reported to be 17 million—grossing over $60 million (equivalent to a gross of over $170,000,000, in today's dollars).
As Rolling Stone magazine dubbed her "Rock's Venus", her record sales continued to multiply and set records themselves. By 1979, Ronstadt had collected eight gold, six platinum and four multi-platinum certifications for her albums, an unprecedented feat at the time. Her 1976 Greatest Hits album would sell consistently for the next 25 years and in 2001 was certified by the RIAA for 7 times platinum (over 7 million U.S. copies sold). In 1980, Greatest Hits Volume II was released and certified platinum.
In 1979, Ronstadt went on an international tour, playing in arenas across Australia to Japan, including the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, and the Budokan in Tokyo. She also participated in a benefit concert for her friend Lowell George, held at The Forum, in Los Angeles.
By the end of the decade, Ronstadt had outsold her female competition; no other female artist to date had five straight platinum LPs: Hasten Down the Wind, and Heart Like a Wheel among them. US Magazine reported in 1978, that Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell had become "The Queens of Rock" and 'Rock is no longer exclusively male. There is a new royalty ruling today's record charts'.
She would go on to parlay her mass commercial appeal with major success in interpreting The Great American Songbook, made famous a generation before by Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald and later the Mexican folk songs of her childhood.
In 1981 Ronstadt produced and recorded an album of jazz and pop standards (later marketed in bootleg form) titled Keeping Out of Mischief with the assistance of producer Jerry Wexler. However, Ronstadt's displeasure with the final result led her, with regrets, to scrap the project. "Doing that killed me", she said in a Time magazine interview. But the appeal of the album's music had seduced Ronstadt, as she told Down Beat magazine in April 1985, crediting Wexler for encouraging her. Nonetheless, Ronstadt had to somehow convince her reluctant record company, Elektra Records, to greenlight this type of album under her contract.
By 1983, Ronstadt had enlisted the help of 62-year-old conductor and master of jazz/traditional pop orchestration, Nelson Riddle. The two embarked on an unorthodox and original approach to rehabilitating the Great American Songbook, recording a trilogy of jazz/ traditional pop albums: What's New (1983—U.S. 3.7 million as of 2010); Lush Life (1984—U.S. 1.7 million as of 2010); and For Sentimental Reasons (1986—U.S. 1.3 million as of 2010). The three albums have a combined sales total of nearly 7 million copies in the United States alone.
In 1978, Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, friends and admirers of one another's work (Ronstadt had included a cover of Parton's "I Will Always Love You" on Prisoner in Disguise) attempted to collaborate on a Trio album. Unfortunately, the attempt did not pan out. Ronstadt later remarked that not too many people were in control at the time and everyone was too involved with their own careers. (Though the efforts to complete the album were abandoned, a number of the recordings were included on the singers' respective solo recordings over the next few years.) This concept album was put on the back burner for almost ten years.
In 2006, recording as the ZoZo Sisters, Ronstadt teamed with her then-new friend, musician and musical scholar Ann Savoy, to record Adieu False Heart. It was an album of roots music incorporating pop, Cajun, and early-20th-century music and released on the Vanguard Records label. But Adieu False Heart was a commercial failure, peaking at No. 146 in the U.S. despite her touring for the final time that year. The album stands as the latest Linda Ronstadt album as of 2012.
Adieu False Heart, recorded in Louisiana, features a cast of local musicians, including Chas Justus, Eric Frey and Kevin Wimmer of the Red Stick Ramblers, Sam Broussard of The Mamou Playboys, Dirk Powell and Joel Savoy, as well as an array of Nashville musicians: fiddler Stuart Duncan, mandolinist Sam Bush and guitarist Bryan Sutton. The recording earned two Grammy nominations: Best Traditional Folk Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.
In 2007, Ronstadt could be heard on the compilation LP We All Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song—a tribute album to jazz music's all-time most heralded artist—on the track "Miss Otis Regrets." In the summer of 2007, Ronstadt headlined the Newport Folk Festival, making her debut at this prestigious event, where she incorporated jazz, rock and folk music into her repertoire.
In 2011, Linda was interviewed by her hometown newspaper and announced her retirement.
In August 2013, Ronstadt revealed to AARP that she has Parkinson's disease, and can no longer "sing a note.
Personal life[edit source]
Beginning in the mid-1970s, Linda Ronstadt's private life became increasingly public. It was fueled by a relationship with then-Governor of California Jerry Brown, a Democratic presidential candidate. They shared a Newsweek magazine cover in April 1979. Us Weekly magazine put them on their cover. Ronstadt and Brown took a trip to Africa which became fodder for the international press, and People magazine put them on their cover.
In the mid-1980s, Ronstadt was engaged to Star Wars director George Lucas.
In the early 1980s, Ronstadt was criticized by music critics for playing concerts in South Africa under apartheid.  She was listed by the U.N. as supporting apartheid by performing there. At the time, she stated, "The last place for a boycott is in the arts" and "I don`t like being told I can`t go somewhere."
In December 1990, she adopted an infant daughter, Mary Clementine. She later adopted a baby boy, Carlos Ronstadt in 1994. Ronstadt has never married. Speaking of finding an acceptable mate, in 1974 she told Peter Knobler in Crawdaddy, "...he's real kind but isn't inspired musically, and then you meet somebody else that's just so inspired musically that he just takes your breath away, but he's such a moron, such a maniac that you can't get along with him. And then after that it's the problem of finding someone that can stand you!"
After living in Los Angeles for 30 years, Ronstadt moved to San Francisco because she said she never felt at home in Southern California. "Los Angeles became too enclosing an environment," she says. "I couldn't breathe the air, and I didn't want to drive on the freeways to get to the studio. I also didn't want to embrace the values that have been so completely embraced by that city. Are you glamorous? Are you rich? Are you important? Do you have clout? It's just not me, and it never was me."  In 1997, Ronstadt sold her home in San Francisco and moved back to her hometown of Tucson, Arizona to raise her two children. In more recent years, Ronstadt moved back to San Francisco while continuing to maintain her home in Tucson.
In 2009, in honor of Ronstadt, the Martin Guitar Company made a 00–42 model "Linda Ronstadt Limited Edition" acoustic guitar. Ronstadt appointed the Land Institute as recipient of all proceeds from her signature guitar.
In the summer of 2011, Simon & Schuster announced they would publish Ronstadt's autobiography. Simple Dreams - A Musical Memoir, and the Spanish version Sueños Sencillos - Memorias Musicales will be released on September 17, 2013.
In August 2013 Ronstadt revealed that she has Parkinson's disease, leaving her unable to sing due to loss of muscle control, which is common to Parkinson's patients. She was diagnosed eight months prior to the announcement and had initially attributed the symptoms she had been experiencing to the aftereffects of shoulder surgery and a tick bite.
Political activism[edit source]
Ronstadt's politics received criticism and praise during and after her July 17, 2004, performance at the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas. Toward the end of the show, as she had done across the country, Ronstadt spoke to the audience, praising Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore's documentary film about the Iraq War; she dedicated the song "Desperado" to Moore. Accounts say the crowd's initial reaction was mixed, with "half the crowd heartily applauding her praise for Moore, (and) the other half booing." Following the concert, news accounts reported that Ronstadt was "evicted" from the hotel premises. Ronstadt's comments, as well as the reactions of some audience members and the hotel, became a topic of discussion nationwide. Aladdin casino president Bill Timmins and Michael Moore each made public statements on the controversy. The incident prompted international headlines and debate on an entertainer's right to express a political opinion from the stage, and made the editorial section of The New York Times. Following the incident, many friends of Ronstadt's, including the Eagles, immediately canceled their engagements at the Aladdin. Ronstadt also received telegrams of support from her rock 'n' roll friends around the world, such as The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, and Elton John. Amid reports of mixed public response, Ronstadt continued in her praise of Moore and his film throughout her 2004 and 2006 summer concerts across North America. At a 2006 concert in Canada, Ronstadt told the Calgary Sun that she was "embarrassed George Bush (was) from the United States.... He's an idiot.... He's enormously incompetent on both the domestic and international scenes.... Now the fact that we were lied to about the reasons for entering into war against Iraq and thousands of people have died – it's just as immoral as racism." Her remarks drew international headlines. In an August 14, 2007, interview, she commented on all her well-publicized, outspoken views, in particular the Aladdin incident by noting, "If I had it to do over I would be much more gracious to everyone ... you can be as outspoken as you want if you are very, very respectful. Show some grace".
In August 2009, Ronstadt, in a well-publicized interview to PlanetOut Inc. titled "Linda Ronstadt's Gay Mission", championed gay rights, same sex marriage and stated that "homophobia is anti-family values. Period, end of story."
On January 16, 2010, Ronstadt converged with thousands of other activists in a "National Day of Action". Ronstadt stated that her "dog in the fight" was—as a native Arizonan and coming from a law enforcement family—the treatment of illegal aliens and Arizona's enforcement of its anti-illegal immigrant law, especially Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration efforts.
On April 29, 2010, Ronstadt began a campaign, including joining a lawsuit, against Arizona's new illegal-immigration law SB 1070 calling it a "devastating blow to law enforcement...the police don't protect us in a democracy with brute force", something she said she learned from her brother, Peter, who was Chief of Police in Tucson.
Ronstadt has also been outspoken on environmental and community issues. Ronstadt is a major supporter and admirer of sustainable agriculture pioneer Wes Jackson, saying in 2000 that "the work he's doing right now is the most important work there is in the (United States)", and dedicating the rock anthem "Desperado" to him at an August 2007 concert in Kansas City, Kansas . In 2007 Ronstadt resided in the San Francisco area, while also maintaining her home in Tucson, Arizona. That same year she drew criticism and praise from Tucsonans for commenting that the local city council's failings, developers' strip mall mentality, greed and growing dust problem had rendered the city unrecognizable and poorly developed.
Top Albums Include.
HEART LIKE A WHEEL - 1974
PRISONER IN DISGUISE - 1975
HASTEN DOWN THE WIND - 1976
GREATEST HITS - 1976
SIMPLE DREAMS - 1977
LIVING IN THE USA - 1978
MAD LOVE - 1980
GREATEST HITS VOL 2 - 1980
GET CLOSER - 1982
WHAT’S NEW - 1983
LUSH LIFE - 1984
TRIO - 1987(With Dolly Parton & Emmylou Harris)
CRY LIKE A RAINSTORM - HOWL LIKE THE WIND - 1989(With Arron Neville)
GRAMMY AWARD Best Female Country Singer of the year - 1974
GRAMMY AWARD - 1976
YOUR NO GOOD - 1974
I CAN’T HELP IT IF I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU - 1974
WHEN WILL I BE LOVED - 1975 (P Everly)
HEAT WAVE - 1975
WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM
I WILL NEVER MARRY
MANY RIVERS TO CROSS
TUMBLIN DICE (Jager/Richards)
THAT’LL BE THE DAY - 1977 (Holly)
IT’S SO EASY - 1977 (Holly)
BLUE BAYOU - 1977
LIVING IN THE USA - 1978 - (Berry)
SOMEWHERE OUT THERE(Ronstadt & James Ingram - DUET)
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