from the book Rock'n Roll Woman
© 1974 by Katherine Orloff

interview with Linda Ronstadt

   Linda Ronstadt has a problem, part of which relates to her own charm and sex appeal, and part of which derives from the rather narrow view male critics have of her. A recent review of her album, Don't Cry Now, pronounces: "Looking as she does, an impossibly cuddly chicklet, it's easy to forgive Linda Ronstadt any musical deficiencies. But this album, in fact her first on Asylum, shows off her musical measurements to the best advantage." Thanks a lot.

   Linda contributes to the dilemma with her own misplaced sense of insecurity. For complicated reasons, she doesn't simply judge her talent in relation to her audience as much as she compares herself to other performers whom she considers her superiors.

   For the record, Linda Ronstadt is one of the finest singers in the medium. She has a clear, strong, vibrant voice, and she is an able interpreter, reading a song with emotion and finesse and her own brand of intuitive insight. She takes her music seriously. On stage she can be excitable, though her performances are ordered and full of energy, and she is backed by consistently fine musicians.

   Even though she is just now beginning to study the guitar, Linda has a good ear and has always been demanding of her sidemen. She doesn't lead her band as much as she sings along with it, choosing to assert her feelings during preconcert sound checks, so that when showtime comes, everyone is musically organized.

   Linda is at home before rock audiences and has toured the country with the likes of Neil Young and Jackson Browne, playing in such diverse locations as hockey arenas and symphony auditoriums. At the same time, she often plays country and western clubs to rousing audience response. At the Palomino Club in North Hollywood, California, reputed to be the top country and western spot in the West, she has broken all attendance records. Yet Linda is not a country and western singer. Her own musical preferences run strongly to rhythm and blues, the type of music she most frequently chooses to listen to. However, she feels she is "incurably white" as a singer, and perhaps, as she points out, her goal is to show that white music can be soulful too. With this in mind, Linda fuses country and rock into a special union.

   Born on July 15, 1946, in Tucson, Arizona, Linda moved to Los Angeles after her freshman semester at the University of Arizona to sing with her friend Bob Kimmel, a singer and guitar player who left Arizona to try to find a career in music. Soon after, they met bass player Kenny Edwards, who shared their musical tastes, and the three of them formed a group they called the Stone Poneys. They recorded three albums and a hit single, "Different Drum," for Capitol Records. All three of the LPs have been cut out of the Capitol catalogue, which means they are no longer available from the distributor. However, owing to Linda's increasing popularity, Capitol recently released an album called Different Drum, which is a collection of songs from her older LPs, including some of the early Stone Poneys material.

   After the group broke up, Linda recorded three albums on her own for Capitol. These solo efforts included "Hand Sown ... Home Grown," "Silk Purse," and "Linda Ronstadt." Her debut album on Asylum, Don't Cry Now, was released in September of 1973.

   In spite of her continuing success, Linda worries. It seems she has been pidgeonholed to such an extent that she is often given little credit for having any brains. It is somewhat ironic that her appearance should prove a liability. She wears her dark hair straight, bangs framing her face above wide eyes and a bright smile. She is fresh and engaging, traits which seem to accent her often provocative stage manner. Linda likes to feel sexy on stage and the message is communicated as much through her clothes, a wardrobe which includes tight pants and filmy blouses, as through her movements, suggestive comments, and generally friendly attitude. In this way, she sometimes seems to perpetuate her own stereotype.

   She has been criticized for allowing the men in her life to make her musical decisions, for being both musically and personally impressionable and an element of surprise is commonplace when she is found to be ingratiating, intelligent, and articulate. Linda Ronstadt is immensely likable, a warm and sensitive person with a genuine will to please. The very fact of her agreeability makes her lack of professional confidence all the more frustrating. She is immensely talented and predictably, purposefully feminine.

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