The native of Tuscon, Ariz., started out in the late-1960s into the ‘70s as a pop singer – and she came up with her share of hits (mentally, I can hear the song “Blue Bayou” as I write this commentary).
BUT SHE GAINED attention in the 1980s when she delved away from a “rock ‘n’ roll” personality – both with her attempt at singing traditional pop music (think “big band” era) and her efforts to regain her ethnic roots (a combination of Mexican and German) when she did a pair of record albums/compact discs of traditional Mexican songs.
That latter effort is what caught my attention – particularly since the first Spanish-language record, entitled Canciones de mi Padre, remains the largest-selling record in the United States not done in English.
And about three-quarters of the copies of that album/CD that were sold actually wound up being sold to customers outside the United States.
Most people trying to make it in the music business as performers can only dream of having such a big hit as the Canciones album, which was such a big deal that Ronstadt felt the need to follow it up with a sequel – Mas Canciones – which has its share of intriguing songs.
FOR THAT RECORD alone, her career would be worth remembering. Yet Ronstadt did much more than it that I’m sure there are some people who want to dismiss it with a sentence or two in the overall Ronstadt story.
Personally, I thought the Canciones record had its moments musically. Although when compared to the originals, the Ronstadt record pales. Ronstadt herself has said she was inspired by the Mexican singer Lola Beltran. Anybody who listens to the two of them realizes that Ronstadt is the equivalent of a photo-copy off the Xerox machine – something is lost in the process.
To the degree that Ronstadt’s effort made people look to the past musically, it served a worthwhile purpose. And to the degree that it helps fill a person’s aural moments with something that doesn’t sound unpleasant, it also is a positive.
All of this is inspired by the announcement last week by Ronstadt that she can’t sing any more.
SHE HADN’T PERFORMED live since 2008 and officially declared herself retired from the music business back in 2011. But now, she says she has Parkinson’s Disease.
Which she says makes it physically impossible for her to sing.
She remains alive (although I have seen some people who interpreted her Parkinson’s announcement as evidence that she died. She didn’t!). But any dreams we might have of getting more from Ronstadt are gone.
Which makes it a plus that we still have the records.
A PART OF Linda will live on to our edification – even that recording from 26 years ago (and counting) that became such a big hit that it (for a time) dominated Spanish-language radio, and broadcasts in Spanish-speaking countries.
I have an uncle who became sick of the record because of the trip he took to Mexico City around the time Canciones was released – and was played and played and played on every single radio station he tuned to.
She might not be able to sing it live anymore. But I can always dig out the disc anytime I want to hear my own personal favorite Ronstadt’s cover of “Tu Solo Tu” – a ballad telling the story of a man driven to intoxication because the woman he loves shows no affection to him in return.
There isn’t any country & western song that could match that storyline!