n the course of her career, Linda Ronstadt has sung country, folk, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, light opera, pop standards and Spanish-language. The damn thing is she's done them all to perfection, succeeding with the public as well as the press no matter what style of music she chooses to sing at any given moment.
"She's about the best girl singer in the world in my prejudiced view," says her manager/producer Peter Asher. "She can sing anything and does so incredibly well."
After one album, Kate returned to Martha's Vineyard and Peter became Linda's manager and producer in time to complete Don't Cry Now, her first album for Asylum Records. "We worked well together, so we decided to do the next (album) together, and that was Heart Like a Wheel," Peter explains. Linda still owed her previous record label, Capitol, one more album. They had their choice of her next three LPs and wisely decided to release Heart Like a Wheel. The album contained "You're No Good," a number one hit, and "When Will I Be Loved," which went to number two. Linda had been including "You're No Good" in her live show.
"I was certainly very keen on recording it," Asher says. "We recorded it a couple of different times to try and get it right. The first time we did it, it was a disaster. We had just hired the wrong people for it and later on we did it with Andrew Gold playing most of the instruments, and that turned out to be the best way."
"You're No Good" established a pattern for Linda. With the exception of the new wavish "How Do I Make You" in 1980, all of her Top 10 singles have been cover versions of previous hits. After releasing the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved," her other Top 10 hits included Martha and the Vandellas' "Heat Wave," Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou," Buddy Holly's "It's So Easy," the Miracles' "Ooh (sic) Baby Baby" and Little Anthony and the Imperials' "Hurt So Bad."
Linda has taken musical risks, though, especially in the 1980s. She was cast as Mabel in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, and Newsweek was effusive in its praise: "...she has not dodged the coloratura demands of her role (and Mabel is one of the most demanding parts of the G&S canon): from her entrance trilling 'Poor Wand'ring One,' it is clear that she is prepared to scale whatever soprano peaks stand in her way."
In 1983 she conquered another musical mountain by recording What's New, an album of pop standards produced by Frank Sinatra collaborator Nelson Riddle. The project was so successful, she followed it with two more installments of songs produced by Riddle.
Linda Maria Ronstadt was born on July 15, 1946, in Tucson, Arizona. Her father Gilbert, of Mexican, German and English heritage, owned "Ronstadt's Hardware Store" and loved to play guitar for his three children. Along with her brother and sister, Linda formed the Three Ronstadts and sang at local functions. She left the University of Arizona in her freshman year to move to California, where she organized an acoustic rock band, the Stone Poneys, with friends Bob Kimmel and Ken Edwards. Their one hit, "Different Drum" (written by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees) was actually recorded by Linda with session musicians.
With the Stone Poneys disbanded, Linda fulfilled their contract obligations with another album for Capitol. Then she embarked on a true solo career, recording the album Hand Sown, Home Grown for Capitol. Her second solo LP, Silk Purse, produced the hit single "Long, Long Time." On her third album, Linda Ronstadt, her band included Don Henley and Glenn Frey, who went on to form the Eagles. Linda worked with producers Peter Boylan and J.D. Souther before connecting with Asher. "Peter was the first person willing to work with me as an equal," Linda told Cameron Crowe in Rolling Stone, "even though his abilities were far superior to mine. I didn't have to fight for my ideas.... All of a sudden making records became so much more fun."
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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