I have crushed harder on Linda Ronstadt than any other female celebrity ever. I loved her back in the 70s; I still do. That is really not much of an admission for a person my age to make because back when she was the most famous singer in the world it was like Willie Nelson said, "There's only two kind of men in the world, those who crush on Linda Ronstadt, and those who never heard of her."
And it's not like I haven't crushed on famous females before. I remember being young and watching Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliette, and falling head over heels in love with Olivia Hussey for better than a month. Linda was different though. I don't think God ever created a more perfect blend of beauty, goodness, and talent. He broke the mold, and it's a God-damn pity that future generations will think that the Taylor Swifts, Pinks, Gagas and Cardi Bs of the world are the epitome of female musical ability.
Ronstadt has an entire catalogue of powerful love ballads, all capable of making the hair on the top of your head tingle with electricity. My favorite will always be "Love Has No Pride" on her Don't Cry album. I listened to that song over and over again just to hear that plaintive wail "If you want me to beg, I'll fall down on my knees and ask for you to come back, I'll be pleading for you to come back." It always made me want to scream, "Don't do it, don't do it, Linda. Mother fucker ain't worth it," while, at the same time, secretly wishing I was the one who had the power to elicit such a heartfelt plea.
The just released documentary of Ronstadt's rise to success Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice is both a wonderful way to reconnect with her music or to become acquainted with her voice, in case you have been hiding under a rock somewhere or somehow believe that the shit that passes for quality nowadays, actually is.
The movie uses video clips and old pictures to explore her beginnings as a native Arizonan born and raised a short distance from the border with Mexico. One of the most poignant scenes is when she recorded the album Canciones De Mi Padre and took it on tour to honor her Mexican Father and her own roots. As she described how much she loved her father and how his death affected her, I have to admit I cried quite openly. And I don't think that anybody who sees this movie and who has lost a father will escape this fate.
Throughout the movie, the viewer gets a strong sense of what it must have been like to have grown up in such a strong, loving family. It shows up in every part of her life and in how she handled success, friendships, professional relationships, and setbacks. Back in the day, Ronstadt was the most beautiful, desirable woman alive (her eyes still radiate beauty), and a large part of her appeal obviously came from the inside.
I recently saw the movie Judy about Judy Garland's tragic life, and the parallels are clearly contrasted and defined. The Sound of My Voice has extraordinary value in this fact alone, it is a paean to the value of family and the values that are instilled from good parenting just as the Garland movie shows what can happen whenever this is lacking.
When the film talks about Ronstadt's' relationships with other talented people like Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, it made me feel good that they had found each other and supported each other in a business that is known to be very brutal and callous at times. It's been a very long while since I could say that about a movie, as far too much of what comes out of Hollywood now seems to prefer to make me feel lousy about being human.
The ending is sad because it shows how much of Ronstadt's amazing voice has been lost to the ravages of Parkinsons. She handles it so well in public by acknowledging how grateful she is for her long career. Her friend Emmylou, however, breaks down when talking about her friend's great loss.
Despite the sad ending, this is still a feel good trip to the theater. It is an uplifting look at the life of a truly remarkable woman, a strong, powerful, real woman who never had to don a pair of superhero's tights or wear a mask. A woman who competed against men, butted heads with men, but never seem to hate anyone and because of that is venerated, loved and respected by every one who came into her life, ex-lovers included.
If I ever got within hearing range of Linda Ronstadt, I would fall at her feet and sing at the top of my voice, "If you want me to beg, I'd fall down on my knees."
Nah, fuck that. I wouldn't want her to think I was crazy. Infatuated maybe, crazy no.