For more than four decades and over the course of 30-plus albums, Linda Ronstadt has been one of American pop music's most beloved vocalists. Her 70s fans have remained loyal, even while she switched to recording standards with Nelson Riddle, and after a successful venture into the New Wave, and she has now endeared herself to more mature audiences.
Over the years, drawing from her rich musical influences, she's also successfully recorded numerous Latin albums, in recognition of her Hispanic heritage.
With roots in the Los Angeles country and folk-rock, and like Stevie Nicks, originally from Arizona, Linda Ronstadt rapidly and deservedly became one of the most popular interpretive singers of the 70s, earning a string of platinum-selling albums and Top 40 singles.
After a brief flirtation with pre-rock pop, Ronstadt settled into a pattern of adult contemporary pop and Latin albums, sustaining her popularity in both fields.
"What I've always done is set myself in a traditional genre and tried to be completely faithful to what the genre demands," says Ronstadt. Whether it be rock, country, pop, or stylistic ventures in big band music, jazz, opera, Broadway standards or Mexican and Afro-Cuban music, Ronstadt has worked with an incredible dedication to her craft.
The daughter of a professional musician, Ronstadt's first singing experience was with her sisters in the Three Ronstadts. She met guitarist Bob Kimmel at Arizona's State University and together the two aspirants moved to Los Angeles, where they were joined by songwriter/bassist Kenny Edwards. Taking the name the Stone Poneys, the trio became popular among the city's folk fraternity and had a U.S. Top 20 hit with "Different Drum," written by Monkee Michael Nesmith. Ronstadt embarked on a successful solo career in 1968. Not only was "Drum" a significant hit for Linda, but her rendition of folk tear-jerker "Long, Long Time," also made an impact. It was during this period that she put together her shortest-lived but most notorious backing band, two members of which, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, went on to form the Eagles. Linda lent the fledgling band considerable professional assistance to the Eagles during their formation, including the services of her own producer, John Boylan.
Her early solo albums signalled a move towards country-flavored material. Establishing herself as a force in the California rock of the era, Ronstadt's approach became more aggressive on the platinum selling Heart Like A Wheel, which included "You're No Good", a U.S. #1 pop hit, and a version of Hank Williams' "I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You," which won a Grammy for best female country vocal. Linda was selecting her own songs, and was showing herself to be meticulous in her choices.
Subsequently, her albums were created to cater to both her rock and country audiences, mixing traditional material, singer-songwriter angst and rock 'n' roll/soul classics, from Motown Records ("Heat Wave"), Roy Orbison ("Blue Bayou") Buddy Holly ("That'll Be The Day") and the Everly Brothers, ("When Will I Be Loved.") A few years after her flirtation with New Wave on 1980's Mad Love, Ronstadt joined with veteran arranger/conductor Riddle, a collaboration which resulted in three albums - What's New, Lush Life and For Sentimental Reasons - consisting of popular standards.
In 1987, she returned to the pop charts with "Somewhere Out There," a duet with James Ingram from An American Tail. That same year, her collaboration with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, Trio, and a selection of mariachi songs, Canciones De Mi Padre, revealed an artist determined to challenge preconceptions. Her 1989 set, Cry Like A Rainstorm, a crafted approach to mainstream recording, included "Don't Know Much", a haunting duet with Aaron Neville, which gave Ronstadt another #2 hit in the U.S. and the UK.
In 1996 she was firmly in the middle of the road with Dedicated To The One I Love, an album of lullabies and love songs "for the baby you love ages 1 to 91", although this was redressed in 1998 with the more familiar We Ran. The following year Ronstadt reunited with Parton and Harris for a second Trio album, and with Emmy Lou for an excellent duo album.