An Evening With Linda Ronstadt
by Ben Fong-Torres
from Rolling Stone / March 18, 1971
HOLLYWOOD - Linda Ronstadt is sexy, sexual, or just plain sex,
depending on which ad you've seen, story you've read, or gossip you've heard. She's also
known to be a very lovely woman and a pretty good country-rock singer. But she sure
doesn't know it.|
Sexy and lovely? Earthy/cute is more like it, even if she doesn't wear a bra.
Dark and dimpled, a Third World flying nun (her stock is Spanish- Indian- German- Dutch- Basque),
very domestic this early evening in her house just above Sunset Strip, with its view of a
Jim Beam sign flashing above all the other bulbs. The former Stone Poney looks comfortable
in her purple T-shirt, jeans, and sandals, seated on a sofa trying to crochet under a glaring
light. She keeps a neat house- she and her lover, a record producer. But the coffee table
is cluttered with cosmetics and hand tools and paper flowers and a lace doillie and a little
clock with a baby butterfly on its face, fluttering to and fro with each quick tick. And a
typewriter and an AFTRA contract. Linda Ronstadt is moving into film and TV work now, singing
themes and getting, from Screen Gems, an offer to star in a television series.
And Linda is comfortable; Hollywood is her world. Before this house, she
was in Topanga Canyon, where she settled after arriving from Tucson, Arizona, with Bob Kimmel
to form the Stone Poneys. She used to spend evenings at the Troubadour and sang on demos
for Mason Williams. Still, she is an alien, in a real way, to her chosen profession,
to this business of art.
First, her music: "I've never liked any of my records," she says, having
made three with the Stoneys and two by herself. Her tone makes it clear she's not just
showing off her modesty. "And I never sit around and listen to them. Once you've done
something- for me, especially- I have a tendency to just hear all the flat notes, and I get
Linda is 24 and has a very simple biography. Born in Tucson;
musical family; lots of country and other area/ethnic radio. "I used to listen to these
funky Mexican stations and try to imitate the female folksingers." A singing group with a
brother and a sister. Split for California at 18 "to join a rock and roll band" instead of
continuing her education. "School became irrelevant, so my choices were to sing or maybe
get a job in a hotel as a waitress. I don't know how to do anything else.
"I feel very cheated by the system in general," she says. "I went to
Catholic school, which made me think that all schools are useless. All I learned was how
to go to sleep in class. So I don't have a high school diploma."
She and Kimmel, in town, met Ken Edwards, and the three became the
Stone Poneys, and signed with Capitol. But Linda was never satisfied. "The Stone Poneys
tried to combine the roots with rock and roll," she said, "and we were miserable."
One hit, "Different Drummer" (written by Mike Nesmith before his Monkee days), and three
thin albums later, the band split, and Linda was recording on her own, working with session men
both on the West Coast and in Nashville and Muscle Shoals. Two solo albums later, she is
again performing with a backup band, called Swamp Water. And she still isn't satisfied.
"My band is much better playing their own stuff than my stuff," she said.
They're a Cajun band and they've got their own LP coming out. I want them to go ahead and
be successful. For me to really have a 'band' is just sort of wishful thinking. I'm
established as a single performer, so it'll be pretty difficult to get on stage with guys
and not be pointed out."
Swamp Water began backing up Linda last summer. "They're still working
for me. I try to make them feel that we're in a band- but it's not always that easy.
Like, if I want arrangements to go a certain way, they have to go that way."
But one can wish. "I'd like to be in a band, and just sing and
play cowbell and tambourine [Linda can play guitar, but only as a tool, for working out
arrangements]. I'm tired of being a single, and I'm tired of the hassles of being a girl.
"It's almost impossible for a girl singer to put a good band together.
First, women are just not taken seriously. They have to shout around to get people to listen.
Women just are not encouraged to make a living doing this kind of thing. People relate
to us so differently."
Lovely Linda, so unsure. Even about her admittedly hyped-up sensuality,
beyond the obvious, real sexiness: "I'm fat." She tugs at some skin above her jeans. "I've
been this way since I was 14." And instead of giving in to the idea that she is
rather delicious, she philosophizes about eating- how you're raised on the idea that you
must clean your plate; how food is such an accessible "boredom-appeaser."
We went to dinner; Linda ordered a New York steak and talked about
dolphins and how they made their choice to adapt themselves to their environment, while
human beings had done the opposite; about how Indians, too, were materialists, living off the
land, "but they didn't upset the balance"; about killing animals.
Relaxing, she talks about Topanga Canyon, how "the land is committed to keeping people from living there. Canyon houses aren't very functional." And about how . . . strange . . . how nice it is to be really in love for the first time. Linda now basks in femininity. But she thinks of all the things she's said, about her singing, her image, her profession, and she adds: "I think I'd be happy just living with a marine biologist in the middle of the ocean . . . studying fishes."