I have always been a fan of Linda Ronstadt. She had a voice that was bigger than a house and has brightened the lives of many people. Her new book, Simple Dreams is not an autobiography, but as she subtitles it, a musical memoir.
Linda was born in Tucson Arizona, with a mixed Mexican-American family and traditions. Music was always part of the family life and was the foundation for her journey through music.
After finishing her first year of college, Linda decided to leave the music-limited Tucson for Los Angeles. A particularly touching moment was when she told her parents she was leaving - the night she left. Although they attempted to talk her out of it, they relented. Her father left the room and brought her the 1898 Martin guitar that had been given to him by his father. He said the same thing to her that is father had said, "Now that you own a guitar, you will never be hungry."
This was circa 1965 and the time of hippies, psychedlia, and national angst over the war in Vietnam. It was an amazing pack of people she lived, performed, and ran around with. These included the moody and angry Jim Morrison of the Doors (who she had a sixth sense to avoid), Jackson Browne, Neil Young, the Eagles, and others.
Linda has an amazing memory and although she doesn't preach on the dangers of alcohol and drugs, she made an early discovery they were not right for her, and eventually dangerous for anyone. She tells of an emergency room visit because of cocaine where the physician explained that cocaine atrophied the cilia of the ear, degrading hearing. That experience led her away from the drug scene that eventually claimed the lives of many of them.
Even after the hit, "A Different Drum", Linda still didn't have money for a washing machine, and would go out on tour simply for the money. Eventually though, her voice captivated audiences and she had a string of hits.
She tired of rock music only, and wanted to do something else with her talent. That led her to discover other artists such as Emmy Lou Harris, Dolly Parton, Nicolette Larson, the Neville Brothers, and Nelson Riddle. Turning away from rock and roll, she had success in New York musicals, first the summer in the park series and then later to Broadway.
She kept reaching, experimenting with blue grass with Ricky Skaggs, Creole with the Neville Brothers, and the Great American Songbook with Nelson Riddle.
Linda sang her last concert on November 7, 2009 in Tucson, the city where she began. She had begun to lose control of her voice, blaming it on different things such as a tick bite. Eventually it would be diagnosed as Parkinson's Disease as described in Linda Ronstadt on Her Memoir and Parkinsons' .
So why the journey when she was at one time the queen of rock and roll? It was because she discovered that the essence of rock was its passion, nominally centered on romance. As Linda grew older, learned and experienced more, she realized music was a medium for expressing all of human life, not just passion. An amazing journey.