Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Charming Linda Ronstadt

--> “I’m not competitive musically.”  This seems obvious.  Linda Ronstadt is the ultimate collaborator.  She has sung with everyone from Dolly Parton to Nelson Riddle to Mariachi los Camperos de nati Cano.

She was on the road with Neil Young in Houston.   She heard about Emmylou Harris from Chris Hillman. He thought they had the same music sensibilities.  After her show, she heads over to this biker club.  It was rowdy.  Gram Parsons comes on stage and sings with Emmylou.  She said you could hear a pin drop in the place. At that moment she felt jealousy.  She loved Emmylou’s voice.  She said I could carry that jealousy or I could embrace her as a fan and maybe one day get to sing with her.  The latter was the chosen path and it resulted in Trio. 

Gracious, funny and very astute, my impression of Linda Ronstadt.  John Rockwell interviewed her last night at the 92Y last night.  I haven’t read her book Simple Dreams, but I’ve heard Rockwell and others say it is beautifully written.  The only thing she said she wrote before this book was thank you notes. She was inspired by Renee Fleming’s and Rosanne Cash’s memoirs.  Her publisher said you don’t have to write about your old boyfriends, just about the music.  She was in.  She wrote on a laptop, mostly late at night after her kids went to bed. 

She has a varied cast of friends, She was asked about Phoebe Snow who she said she misses dearly.  They might not speak for a year, but when they did it was like no time had passed and they made each other laugh.  Rosemary Clooney invited her to sing at a benefit.  Linda said I’d love to talk to you about Nelson Riddle. (This was after her three records with him and he had passed.) He told Linda that Clooney was the love of his life. Clooney invited her for dinner. Linda told the funny story of how Jerry Brown just shows up at her house as she’s leaving to go to Clooney’s house. He invites himself to dinner and then high jacks roses that were sent to Linda to bring to Clooney.  She said he doesn’t spend a red cent. 

Not much of the rock era of her career was touched upon.   After playing arenas, which she said sounded horrible; she wanted to play “on a stage with a curtain”. They used to joke that it reverberated so much in those venues, that you could hear a guitar solo that was played the week before.  John Rockwell was instrumental in connecting her to Joseph Papp and then came Pirates of Penzance, which was eventually performed on a stage with a curtain.   

She is active in the bay area not for profit organization Los Cenzontles. Their goal is to create a family-like environment where young people could learn and explore traditional Mexican music and dance.

Linda was charming and sassy.  She’s well read and well versed in music.
She shared her joys with us last night.  I always thought she was the coolest and she still is.  Her book, Simple Dreams:  A Musical Memoir is out now.  

For more reading:  SF Gate. 

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