Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice
Myrna Loy, last showing is Oct. 10
My choice for the best singing voice ever? The sweet dreams of Patsy Cline.
My wife Sue’s choice? She might well have picked the blue bayous of Linda Ronstadt – she loved Linda.
Sue, a violinist, also said she would have run away with Jim Morrison of the Doors, had he asked.
Linda Ronstadt was in town at The Myrna – or a portrait of her, at least.
“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” is an affectionate portrait of her wide-ranging life. Feet were tapping and heads nodding as we watched footage of some of her most memorable songs like “Blue Bayou” and “When Will I Be Loved.”
The portrait confirms what those of us who loved her hoped.
“She was a sweet, humble person,” said a friend.
Her albums cover the gamut: pop, country, folk, Sinatra, Mexican and soul.
“Rolling Stone” described her singing as well as anyone: “Her voice is tender, lusty, a giant musical teardrop that conveyed both broken-heart vulnerability and, thanks to her lung power, an undeniable sense that she could overcome anything in her way.”
Kevin Kline, who co-starred with her in an operetta, called her voice “so pure it made me cry.”
“She would kill it every night,” said Jackson Browne, talking of the times she opened for him – and upstaged him.
She was friends with Dolly Parton, Emmy Lou Harris and Bonnie Raitt, fellow female trailblazers. Shots of them singing together feel like sisters in song.
“No one had a voice like Linda,” said Emmy Lou.
Ronstadt had her battles. She confesses to a diet pill addiction. She loved often, but left often. “When Will I Be Loved” might be her anthem. Her romance with California Gov. Jerry Brown was a tabloid sensation – the ultimate celebrity couple.
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Ronstadt never married, although rumors circulated that she would become first lady of California.
She gave up singing in 2009, at age 63, when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
“That was when I could no longer hold a note without quivering,” she said.
Ronstadt was popular and loved, but was sometimes criticized for not writing her own music. Dolly Parton praised Ronstadt for being able to “get inside a song.”
She was headstrong, and changed directions without giving notice. At the top of her game, she turned to Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Then she started recording American standards, of the Sinatra ilk. She accepted an invitation from R&B artist Aaron Neville to record soul.
At each turn, she’d rehearse religiously, wanting to do justice to every song she sang – to own it.
She decided to honor her Mexican heritage by singing Spanish songs, a journey that meant lots of coaching to get all the phrases just right. She grew up with Spanish music, longed to honor her relatives who taught her to sing as a child.
Every time she switched genres, her new albums flew off the shelves and into her fans’ hearts.
Her Spanish album, Canciones De Mi Padre (“Songs of My Father”) still stands as “the biggest selling non-English language album in American record history.”
Reviews of her no-frills concerts noted how little she moved. She just hugged the mic and sang.
The documentary touches on controversies, including her trip to South Africa during an Apartheid boycott. But the script is mostly adoring, non-critical. It’s for fans.
The documentary ends in 2019 when she sits in on a pick-up session, her hand trembling -- and tries to sing along.
“This isn’t really singing,” she says. That’s a hard scene to watch.
“Ronstadt” has only one showing left, Thursday, Oct. 10.
Here’s hoping a few young filmgoers discover Linda for the first time tonight. Enjoy!
Lemon drops: A Judy Garland biopic opens Oct. 11 at the Myrna. We get to hear Renee Zellweger sing “Over the Rainbow.” It’s a dark journey into the twilight of Judy’s life, but a touching portrait nonetheless. More on Judy and her heart-melting voice next week.
Raise our coffee mugs to a good man: Helena lost a dear, sweet soul when Dan Fountaine died on Sept. 18 at 54. Dan owned the Fireside coffee shop and was a master gardener. He tended my garden last summer. He never failed to have a warm smile and kind words for me and my latest review. Young Dan also read my reviews when we both lived in Seattle in the 1980s. Our lives seemed intertwined. The colorful petunias in Helena’s hanging baskets are weeping along with all of us – gardeners, knitters, coffee drinkers and soup sippers alike.