Linda Ronstadt dominated popular music in the 1970s with a voice of tremendous range and power. She was one of the most important voices in the creation of country rock, in part because she understood how to sing traditional country songs like “Silver Threads And Golden Needles.” She regularly crossed over to the country charts in the ’70s, a rarity for rock singers. Working with producer Peter Asher, Ronstadt crafted a repertoire of songs that roamed throughout rock history that she interpreted with beautiful, precise phrasing. Ronstadt was especially good at singing early rock and roll; she had a long string of hits that revived interest in rock’s pioneers: Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” the Everly Brothers' “When Will I Be Loved” and Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day” among them. She was equally comfortable with Motown music and the beginning of new wave. Her finest work was the run of four consecutive platinum albums in the mid 70s: Heart Like A Wheel (1974), Prisoner In Disguise (1975), Hasten Down The Wind (1976) and Simple Dreams (1977). In the 1980s, she expanded her musical vocabulary by recording songs from the classic American songbook (What’s New, Lush Life) and Mexican music that she heard growing up in Tucson, Arizona (Canciones De Mi Padre). That work proved as successful as her rock albums; she is the only artist to win a Grammy Award in the categories of pop, country, Mexican American and Tropical Latin. That diversity reflects her approach to singing: she was always looking for the best song, regardless of category.
"You're No Good" (1975)
Released in 1974, "You're No Good" rocketed to Number One upon its release. Ronstadt's visceral vocal delivery set against the backing vocals unequivocally gave the song a resonant backbone called for by the lyrical content. It remains one of the songs most readily associated with Ronstadt.
"When Will I Be Loved" (1975)
Composed by Hall of Fame Inductee Phil Everly and pulled as a single from Heart Like a Wheel that would reach the Top 10 on the pop charts and Number One on the country charts, "When Will I be Loved" beautifully captured Ronstadt's expressive, earnest emoting and harmonies in this two-minute gem.
"Blue Bayou" (1977)
Amid the tracks of 1977's Simple Dreams, an album that found Ronstadt flexing her interpretive musical muscle covering the likes of Buddy Holly ("It's So Easy"), the Rolling Stones ("Tumbling Dice") and Little Richard ("Maybe I'm Right"), Ronstandt's reworking of Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou" took the tender track to new heights.
"Poor Poor Pitiful Me" (1978)
While Simple Dreams' tracks like "Blue Bayou" underscored Ronstadt's ability to captivatingly pull on the heart strings, adding songs such as Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" proved she could just as deftly tackle more pointed cuts from the singer/songwriter catalog.
"Don't Know Much" (with Aaron Neville) (1989)
Penned by Hall of Fame Inductees Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil with Tom Snow, "Don't Know Much" had been interpreted by Bill Medley and Bette Midler before the version recorded by Ronstadt and Neville went gold in 1989, won a Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance by a Pop Group or Duo and was nominated for Song of the Year.
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