With roots in the Los Angeles country and folk-rock scenes, Linda Ronstadt became one of the most popular interpretive singers of the '70s, earning a string of platinum-selling albums and Top 40 singles. Throughout the '70s, her laidback pop never lost sight of her folksy roots, yet as she moved into the '80s, she began to change her sound with the times, adding new wave influences. 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.
Born July 15, 1946, in Tucson, AZ., Ronstadt was a student at Arizona State University, when she met guitarist Bob Kimmel. The duo moved to Los Angeles, where guitarist/songwriter Kenny Edwards joined the pair. Calling themselves the Stone Ponys, the group became a leading attraction on California's folk circuit, recording their first album in 1967. The band's second album, Evergreen, Vol. 2, featured the Top 20 hit "Different Drum," which was written by Michael Nesmith of The Monkees. After recording one more album with the group, Ronstadt left for a solo career at the end of 1968. Ronstadt eventually emerged as princess of the California rock mafia that included the Eagles, John David Souther and Jackson Browne
Ronstadt's first two solo albums -- "Hand Sown, Home Grown" (1969) and "Silk Purse" (1970) -- accentuated her country roots, featuring several honky tonk numbers. Released in 1971, her self-titled third album was a pivotal record in her career. Featuring a group of session musicians that would later form the Eagles, the album was a softer, more laidback variation of the country-rock she had been recording. With the inclusion of songs from singer/songwriters like Jackson Browne, Neil Young, and Eric Anderson, Linda Ronstadt had folk-rock connections as well.
The album "Don't Cry Now", released in 1973, followed the same formula to greater success, yet it was 1974's "Heart Like a Wheel" that perfected the sound, making Ronstadt a star. Featuring the hit covers "You're No Good," "When Will I Be Loved," and "It Doesn't Matter Anymore," Heart Like a Wheel reached number one and sold over two million copies.
Released in the fall of 1975, "Prisoner In Disguise" followed the same pattern as "Heart Like A Wheel" and was nearly as successful. "Hasten Down The Wind", released in 1976, suggested a holding pattern, even if it charted higher than "Prisoner In Disguise".
"Simple Dreams" (1977) expanded the formula by adding a more rock-oriented supporting band, which breathed life into the Rolling Stones' "Tumbling Dice" and Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me." The record became the singer's biggest hit, staying on the top of the charts for five weeks and selling over three million copies.
With "Living in the U.S.A". (1978) Ronstadt began experimenting with new wave, recording Elvis Costello's "Alison". The album was another number one hit. On 1980's "Mad Love", she made a full-fledged new wave record, recording three Costello songs and adopting a synth-laden sound. While the album was a commercial success, it signalled that her patented formula was beginning to run out of steam. That suspicion was confirmed with 1982's "Get Closer", her first album since Heart Like a Wheel to fail to go platinum.
Sensing it was time to change direction, Ronstadt starred in the Broadway production of Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance, as well as the accompanying movie. Pirates of Penzance led the singer to a collaboration with big band leader Nelson Riddle, who arranged and conducted her 1983 collection of pop standards, "What's New". While it received lukewarm reviews, it was a considerable hit, reaching number three on the charts and selling over two million copies.
Ronstadt's next two albums -- "Lush Life" (1984) and "For Sentimental Reasons" (1986) -- were also albums of pre-rock standards recorded with Nelson Riddle.
At the end of 1986, Ronstadt returned to contemporary pop, recording "Somewhere Out There", the theme to the animated "An American Tail", with James Ingram; the single became a number two hit. She also returned to her country roots in 1987, recording the "Trio" album with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. That same year, Ronstadt recorded "Canciones de mi Padre", a set of traditional Mexican songs that became a surprise success.
Two years later, Linda recorded what some consider her finest album "Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind" -- her first contemporary pop album since 1982's "Get Closer". Featuring four duets with Aaron Neville, including the number two hit "Don't Know Much," the album sold over two million copies.
Ronstadt returned to traditional Mexican and Spanish material with "Mas Canciones" (1991) and "Frenesi" (1992). She returned to pop with 1994's "Winter Light", which failed to generate a hit single, neither did 1995's "Feels Like Home". In 1996, she released the children's album "Dedicated to the One I Love".
Linda returned to contemporary rock with a solo album called "We Ran", released in 1998. Musicians on this album included members of the Heartbreakers, former Eagle Bernie Leadon, and her long-time guitarist Waddy Wachtel.
1999 found Linda on a tour with country singer Emmylou Harris which produced the joint album "Western Wall".
"The Linda Ronstadt Box Set" was issued in 1999. These four discs contain essential Ronstadt material, including hits, live performances, duets, collaborations, and rare, never- before-heard moments that have been tucked away for years. Discs one and two focus on Ronstadt's album catalogue, with hit singles, favourite album tracks, and her forays into big band and Latin music. Disc three contains duets with Aaron Neville, James Taylor, Chuck Berry, and Frank Sinatra, and others, plus hits with The Trio. Disc four focuses on rarities, including several unreleased out takes from the vaults including tracks like "Tumbling Dice" and "Honky Tonk Blues".
Linda made news in July, 2004 when she was ejected from Las Vegas's Aladdin Hotel after she dedicated the song "Desperado" to Michael Moore and encouraged the audience to see his new film, Fahrenheit 9/11, a documentary harshly critical of the Bush administration. Casino president William Timmins had her removed from the premises after some of the people in the audience booed her, ripped posters from the wall, and threw drinks.
In 2006 Ronstadt teamed with her friend Ann Savoy to record "Adieu False Heart" as the ZoZo Sisters. A collection of Pop, Cajun, and early 20th century music, the LP proved to be a commercial failure, peaking at #146 in the U.S.
In 2007 Linda could be heard on the compilation LP "We All Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song", a tribute album to Jazz great Ella Fitzgerald. That same summer, she headlined the Newport Folk Festival where she included Jazz, Rock and Folk music into her repertoire.
The Martin Guitar Company honored Linda in 2009 by producing the Linda Ronstadt Limited Edition acoustic guitar. Ronstadt has appointed the Land Institute as recipient of all of her proceeds from that instrument. That May, she received an honorary doctorate of music degree from the Berklee College of Music for her achievements and influence in music, and her contributions to American and international culture.
Over the course of her career, Linda Ronstadt has earned three Billboard #1 Pop albums, ten Top 10 albums and placed 36 LPs on the Hot 200 chart. On Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, she has charted 15 albums including four that hit #1. In the summer of 2011, publishers Simon & Schuster announced that Ronstadt's autobiography, Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir, was slated for release in 2013. 2012's "Adiue False Heart" remains her latest release.
During the Summer of 2013, the now 67-year-old Linda revealed that she had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a condition that has made it no longer possible for her to sing. "I miss it every day," she said. "Singing is something I've done since I was 2 years old." Her health problems were the main reason for not attending her induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in April, 2014, although she was quoted as saying "If you're working for prizes, you're in trouble." Another honor came her way that same month when The Library Of Congress announced that they have added her 1974 album, "Heart Like A Wheel" to their collection of culturally, historically or aesthetically significant recordings. Just days after her Rock Hall induction, Linda's newest album, "Duets", rose to #32 on Billboard's Hot 200 chart. The collection includes collaborations with Don Henley, Bette Midler, Frank Sinatra, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. It was her highest chart ranking since 1990's "Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind".
On July 28, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama presented Linda with a National Medal of Arts at the White House. A military aide brought her into the East Room by wheelchair, but she walked to the stage to receive her award as a citation was read honoring her "one-of-a-kind voice" that paved the way for generations of women artists.