A Different Drum
September 5, 2013
It appears the apocalypse is officially upon us. Linda Ronstadt says she's physically unable to sing, yet we can't get certain people to simply shut up, go away or preferably, both. Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus immediately come to mind.
It's another reminder that life can be cruel and ironic. A lot of these celebrity jerk-offs choose to be dopes. Conversely, Ronstadt -- like the rest of us -- couldn't pick her parents and now suffers from Parkinson's, a genetically inherited disease depriving the brain of a chemical called dopamine (Dope-a-meen).
Many of today's performers seem satisfied with their allotted 15 minutes of fame. Ronstadt, on the other hand, is a timeless treasure whose numerous recordings remind us that some artists weren't just lucky to catch a current musical wave; they were the wave. She could and did sing every conceivable genre, it seems, but long before a late-'70s piece Rolling Stone called her "America's best-known female Rock singer," Ronstadt had established deep Country roots.
As many know, they date back to The Stone Poneys in the mid-late-'60s and continued with her 1969 solo album, "Hand Sown ... Home Grown," which was all Country. many of us in radio remember playing, "Silver Threads And Golden Needles," though it wasn't a Country hit until appearing again two albums later, on 1973's "Don't Cry Now."
In between, she gave us two albums laced with Country music. "Silk Purse" was recorded in Nashville and featured cuts penned by Hank Williams Sr. and Mel Tillis. A single, "Long, Long Time," earned Ronstadt her first Grammy nomination. On "Linda Ronstadt," she capably took on Country classics "Crazy Arms" and "I Fall To Pieces."
1975's landmark "Heart Like A Wheel" album began a string of critical and commercial successes that produced seven consecutive platinum albums, making Ronstadt a superstar ... the female superstar of the '70s and '80s.
But she never forgot those Country roots.
All of her projects during this time included stone-cold Country songs. From "Heart Like A Wheel," Ronstadt earned her first Grammy - in the Country category (Best Vocal performance/Female) -- for her cover of Hank Williams Sr.'s "I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You." Some of us remember playing that one, too.
The follow-up, "Prisoner In Disguise" had a cut with Emmylou Harris ("The Sweetest Gift") and Ronstadt's version of "I Will Always Love You." She covered Willie Nelson's "Crazy" on "Hasten Down The Wind" and scored a #2 Country single with Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou" on the "Simple Dreams" LP.
There were many other diverse musical styles showcased by Ronstadt during this time, too. But Country was a common thread, including and especially the memorable, Grammy winning "Trio" collaboration with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton in 1986. In 1999, "Trio II" followed, also winning a Grammy.
When you stop and think about it, a look back at Ronstadt's contribution to the Country genre - even a quick one as we've done here - makes a strong case for her induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Because even at the height of her pop star super-powers, Ronstadt kept singing Country music and she didn't just dabble. She took on songs that were classics even then and stayed true to the original interpretation. That she consistently delivered the goods vocally was pretty much a given. If chosen, she would join her "Trio" mates Parton and Harris, inducted in 1999 and 2008, respectively.
It's nothing short of tragic that Ronstadt's iconic singing voice is now silenced, but aren't you glad we can all appreciate her vast and unforgettable body of work forever? Meanwhile, what was that song Miley Cyrus just did on TV? Sheesh! It was a week ago and already I can't recall.