This year Linda Ronstadt turned 70 years of age. She last sang lead vocals on A La Orilla de un Palmar in 2010 on The Chieftans album. It is a traditional Mexican song. In 2011 her autobiography, Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir, was published. Two years later is came out in Spanish. She also was given the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. It was the same year she announced her retirement in an interview with an Arizona newspaper. Another two years would go by before we would understand why she walked away from a highly successful music career.
The silencing of Linda Ronstadt, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog
All through the 1970s, you could not leave your transistor radio on for long without hearing the distinctive voice of Linda Ronstadt. She emerged from her early time with The Stone Poneys in the mid-’60s as broke from paying for much of their third and final album. But from that album, a solo career began to emerge. Her cover of Mike Nesmith’s “Different Drum” became a hit and she was on her way.
After assembling a strong group of musicians and friends, she went ahead with both covers of songs from the 50’s and ’60s as well as some new songs. The combination brought her hit after hit and made her one of the best-selling female artists of all time. She posted many 10 top ten songs and one of her hottest was a cover of the Little Anthony and the Imperials song, Hurt So Bad,” which peaked in 1980.
In a career that lasted until 2011, Ronstadt sold over 100 million records and her voice can be heard on an astounding 120 albums. She has an impressive collection of awards, including 11 Grammys. She remained popular until her retirement when she declared herself “100 percent retired.” While some walk away from their careers as they get older, it is always somewhat of a surprise when a famous person retires. You really expect them to come back at some point. That was never going to happen for Ronstadt.
She could no longer sing. She was physically unable. In 2012 she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and in August 2013 the news was stated publicly. Her induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came too late in her career. In April 2014, the disease progressed to the point where she could not perform at her induction, or even attend. Her friends took her place on stage, singing out her biggest hits in tribute.
In July of 2014, President Obama handed out twelve 2013 National Medals of Arts and Humanities, including one for Linda Ronstadt. This honor was not to be denied to her. She was brought to Washington and wheeled into the East Room by a military aide, but she stood and walked up to the President of the United States to receive her award “for her one-of-a-kind voice and her decades of remarkable music.” After the ceremony, President Obama admitted to the crowd, “I told Linda Ronstadt I had a crush on her back in the day.” It’s OK to admit that. Millions of others boys did too.
This year the Grammy’s gave a Lifetime Achievement Award to Linda Ronstadt. A musical salute to this year’s Grammy’s Special Merit award winners will be shown on Great Performances on PBS Friday, October 14th in most television markets. Lila Downs, Martina McBride, and J.D. Souther will cover some Ronstadt hits.