Linda Ronstadt

July 15, 1946
  • Songs
  • Artistfacts ®
  • A native of Tucson, Arizona, Linda Ronstadt is one of the most successful recording artists and songwriters of all time. Raised on a ranch in a family of Mexican and German heritage, Ronstadt credits her family with introducing her to music.

    Although her influence was Mexican Mariachi and folk songs, Ronstadt became known as the First Lady of Rock. Behind the strength of songs such as "You're No Good," "When Will I Be Loved," and "Blue Bayou," Rolling Stone magazine declared Ronstadt to be "Rock's Venus." She went on to perform on Broadway and in film and she continues to record well into the 21st century.
  • Ronstadt left home when she was 17 and became part of the band The Stone Poneys in 1966. The group recorded three albums and its biggest hit was "Different Drum." As a solo artist in the early 1970s, Ronstadt recruited Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon to be part of her touring band. Those four went on to form their own rock band - the Eagles. That decade saw Ronstadt become the highest paid female artist in rock music.

    The Heart Like a Wheel album, which featured "You're No Good" and "When Will I Be Loved," spent 51 weeks on the Billboard Albums chart. Looking back on her fame and how the media emphasized her sexuality, Ronstadt told the New York Times in 2008 that she was, "somebody else's version of me walking around with my name... it became a strange distortion."
  • In 1980, Ronstadt stepped away from pop and rock music to star in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. She told Newsweek magazine that she was not really a fan of Broadway show tunes and would rather listen to Hank Williams, but she wanted to show another aspect of her personality. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1981 for her portrayal of Mabel, losing to Lauren Bacall, who starred in Woman of the Year. In 1983, Ronstadt was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the motion picture version of the musical.
  • Ronstadt further moved away from her rock star image in the 1980s with the recording of Mexican-American folk music and her country music collaborations. She released Canciones de Mi Padre in 1987, which translates as "Songs of My Father." It was her first album of Mariachi music and for a period of time was the biggest-selling non-English album in the United States.

    She won a Grammy for Best Mexican-American Performance in 1988 and in 1998, Mas Canciones won the Grammy for Best Mexican-American Album. Her collaboration with Emmy Lou Harris and Dolly Parton, "After the Gold Rush," on the Trio II album, won a Grammy in 1999 and to further show her diversity, she was nominated for Grammy awards for her folk music albums in 1999, 2002, and 2006.
  • Her first four solo albums, released between 1969 and 1973, were only modestly successful. Her breakthrough came when she started working with Peter Asher, who produced her 1974 album Heart Like a Wheel. That album contained her #1 hit "You're No Good," and her career took off from there. Asher, who was also James Taylor's producer, worked with her throughout the rest of the decade and the '80s, including on her standards albums in on Canciones de Mi Padre.

    What did Asher do to help Ronstadt realize her potential? In a Songfacts interview, he said: "I think we chose the right songs and we did them the right way. The process by which we achieved that was a conversation. We would both suggest songs. She would usually suggest the slow ones and I would suggest the rock and roll ones – those were not her favorite. And then we would try out arrangement ideas until we found what seemed to suit."
  • Linda Ronstadt revealed on August 23, 2013 in an interview with AARP that she has Parkinson's disease, which has left her unable to sing. The symptoms emerged eight years earlier and affected her singing; she performed for the last time in 2009 but didn't announce her retirement until 2011.
  • Ronstadt's grandfather on her mother's side of the family was Lloyd Copeland, who had more than 700 patents to his name. They include the rubber ice-cube tray, an early form of the electric toaster, the grease gun, the first electric stove, an early form of the microwave oven and the electric milking machine. Ronstadt told The Guardian:

    "He invented a lot of stuff. He was brilliant and he was always working on something. He was so successful that he was judged to be third behind Thomas Edison in the number of useful patents he had developed."
  • Most of Ronstadt's recordings were penned by other songwriters. She explained her reluctance to pick up a pen to Uncut in 2015: "Being a writer wasn't what I was. Randy Newman says he gets up and goes to his office, sits down and starts writing; that's what a writer is. I never did that. I got up in the morning and drank a cup of tea. I didn't think there was any reason for me to go grinding out my own songs when I had people like J.D. (Souther) and Jackson (Browne) and Neil Young around."
  • Linda Ronstadt once got together with Frank Zappa to record an advert for Remington razors. She recalled: "Frank wrote it. It was so musically complicated that I don't know if they liked it. It was kind of like Bambi and Deep Throat on the same bill; it was not a likely pairing."
  • Hispanic-Net named Ronstadt the Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009 for her work with Mexican Heritage Corporation. Her involvement included serving as the artistic director for the San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival, performing at elementary schools in the San Jose area, and contributing to a local community garden. She told the New York Times in 2008, "At this point in my life, I'm not as single-mindedly focused on music. I'm really focused on how do you stop erosion."
  • She never got married, claiming she wasn't cut out for it. "I'm not good at compromising," she said. She adopted two children: Mary in 1990 and Carlos in 1994.
  • She didn't own a television, which she referred to as an "electronic dictator," preferring to read or listen to music when she was home. Accordingly, she didn't own a computer either, and stayed offline.
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