Monday, August 26, 2013

Linda Ronstadt - Prisoner in Disguise

Saturday Song Selection: Special Edition

"Blessed with arguably the most sterling set of pipes of her generation ... rarest of rarities—a chameleon who can blend into any background yet remain boldly distinctive ... It's an exceptional gift; one shared by few others." – Christopher Louden, Jazz Times

 “The thing you have to be prepared for is that other people don't always dream your dream.” – Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt - Stone Poney, solo artist, cross-over artist, pioneer standards standard-bearer, Broadway, Hollywood and operetta performer, teenage lust object.

In a previous Saturday Song Selection featuring Linda Ronstadt and the song, “You’re No Good,” we wondered about the relative invisibility of Ronstadt in recent years. There was a sustained period of time, not all that long ago, when there was no more popular or successful international recording artist as she, with broad appeal across generations and musical genres. She has recently explained the reason for her absence from the public eye, in this era of TMZ, Facebook, blogs, Twitter and even the NSA, when no one, no matter how renowned or obscure, is afforded any true measure of privacy or anonymity (We are all Number 6 – “I am not a number, I’m a free man!”)

In an interview in the current issue of “AARP Magazine: The World’s Most Depressing Periodical” whose editorial philosophy is “50 is the new 100, so give up – enjoy the free hemlock with every paid subscription,” 67 year old songstress, Linda Ronstadt, discusses her on-going battle with Parkinson’s Disease, and the heartbreaking, resulting loss of her once pristine and powerful voice.

 Ronstadt, as senior citizen, seems almost unimaginable, as for many of us baby-boomers, she remains an indelible icon of our youthful bygone days of high school and college. (As her carefully placed, Spencer Gifts purchased poster, Scotch-taped just so, on my teenage bedroom wall would attest to.)  For any readers who may be Tea Party affiliated, or are potential GOP Presidential Candidates, colleges are institutes of higher learning, or as you refer to these establishments of academia, “Elitist Communist Indoctrination Camps.”

To nycityman and his uninteresting memories of meandering musical tastes (Linda fell in after British Invasion and Protest Music and before New Wave and Zydeco) and fluctuating infantile infatuations (she was after Barbara Eden and Jill St. John and before Grace Slick and Annie Golden of the Shirts – I got a bit untraditional for a while) she seems in some ways stuck in time and of a particular musical age, and although owner of 8 of her uber-successful 33 1/3 LPs, from “Don’t Cry Now” to “Mad Love,” my collection never made the technical transition from platter to CD, and needless to say,  MP3 downloads remain unexplored assets, as well. And although there is a certain satisfaction in the warm and imperfect sound of needle on vinyl, it’s far beyond the time to rectify this aural oversight.

Linda Ronstadt was the first of the rock-era warblers to make the now common cross-over to exploring and recording classics from the Great American songbook, paving the way for Carly Simon, Cyndy Lauper, Paul McCartney and Rod Stewart, and many lesser talents like Bobby Darin wannabe – Canadian, karaoke-level, crooner Michael Buble. She did so with great success and class, as she teamed with the eminent arranger of such music, frequent Sinatra collaborator, the incomparable, Nelson Riddle.  There was a time when a friend and I could listen to Frank Sinatra tracks and easily distinguish the individual arranger for each song - be it Riddle, Billy May, Gordon Jenkins or Don Costa – such was the uniqueness and level of distinct talent of Old Blue Eye’s partners; and such was the degree to which we clearly needed to get a life.

Prisoner in Disguise

“You think the love you never had might save you
But true love takes a little time
You can touch it with your fingers
And try to believe your eyes
Is it love or lies?” - J.D. Souther

These were sad and discouraging days for we closeted-Caruso’s, as Karaoke clubs had not yet reached Western shores, and we had but shower stalls as our sole outlets in which to exercise our earnest, but humble, musical chops. “Prisoner in Disguise” was one of nycityteen’s preferred melodies in which to stretch his extremely limited instrument. Standing very close to the stereo, equidistant between left and right JBL’s, I would find a place to blend my inimitable and non-too pleasant bleating, with the far more mellifluous intonations of Ms. Ronstadt and, back-up singer and songwriter, J.D. Souther;  out would emerge all the emotion and soul that this middle-class, Italian-American, spoiled, suburban white boy could muster.  And speaking of soul, I retain the same Ma Bell 7 digit number that I’ve had for decades, as I still also retain the hope of the soon to be received phone call that will request my participation as the first Caucasian replacement Temptation in history.

Linda Ronstadt and J.D. Souther
Composer, J.D. Souther’s contribution to the quality and excellence of “Prisoner in Disguise” should not be underestimated. Souther’s compositions were covered by a wide-range of recording artists, and after release of  a solo album; he followed the proven mathematical formula to super-group success by teaming up with one Byrd (Chris Hillman) and one Buffalo Springfield member (Richie Furay) to form the Souther, Hillman, Furay Band.  While not reaching the heights of originator and model of this folk-rock equation, Crosby, Stills and Nash, they did produce some fine work, and all enjoyed lengthy and prolific careers, moving on to be part of Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Manassas, among other bands. Nycityman’s ideal super-group - The Who have lost their drummer and bass player; all that survives of the Beatles, are their drummer and bass player, thus would be born – the Who-tles! (Okay, maybe that moniker’s a tad too “Seussian,” sounding, we can revisit it later.)

Linda Marie Ronstadt by the Numbers

As was mentioned earlier, Linda Ronstadt began her recording career as a member of the Los Angeles-based, folk-rock trio, The Stone Poneys (the misspelling was intentional) with Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards. While not the original intent - Ronstadt initially shared lead-singing duties with Kenny Edwards - Lovely Linda soon became the vocal focal point of the group, culminating in a major hit with the Michael Nesmith penned “Different Drum.”  By their third album, in the great egomaniacal tradition of “Diana Ross and...” and “Frankie Valli and...” any pretense of equality had been vanquished and the band became known as “Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys”… and then they broke up.  However, no hard feelings must be assumed for Kenny Edwards remained an integral member of Linda’s solo career musical family, singing and playing on her best-selling albums for 10 years after the group’s demise.

It would be extremely hard to repudiate (again, for Tea Partier’s, feel free to substitute the Palin malapropism “refudiate”) Linda’s decision to troll the waters of solo stardom. She was a giant - a superstar whose domination of, not only, the music charts, but also, the magazine covers, would today send the Kardashians, each in turn, screaming back to their wealthy and highly-irresponsible plastic surgeon in frantic desperation to be put up on the rack again, for a lube job and some rhino-recalibration  – earning 11 Grammy Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy Award, an ALMA Award (for we unenlightened Gringos that’s stands for American Latino Media Arts) and numerous United States and internationally certified gold, platinum and multiplatinum albums. She also received nominations for a Tony Award and a Golden Globe award – not quite an EGOT, but close.

For insomniacs, late night television aficionados and illicit drug abusers – But Wait… There’s More!
Ronstadt appears on over 120 albums, including her own 30 studio releases of new material, and her 15 compilations or greatest hits albums. She charted 38 Billboard Hot 100 singles, with 21 reaching the top 40, 10 in the top 10, three at #2 and "You're No Good" at #1. Thirty six of her LPs reached the Billboard Pop Album Charts, with 10 achieving top-10 status and three attaining the coveted number 1 spot.

Tragically, we may never hear Linda Ronstadt’s beautiful and exceptionally lyrical singing again, but she’s given the world a rich body of work that will remain undiminished for the perpetuity of musical appreciation. And although her performing days may be behind her, her voice has not been silenced. Linda recently authored a memoir, “Simple Dreams,” which will reach iPods and Kindles, and the unfortunately few remaining booksellers, on September 17th. To those aware of nycityman's true identity, and who also participate in Christmas gift exchanging, please take note.

Now sit very close to your computers, equidistant between left and right speakers (or with Dr. Dre’s firmly on ears) and find a place to blend your, no doubt, magnificent and mellow tones with Ronstadt and Souther, and enjoy “Prisoner in Disguise.”

Any comments, questions, criticisms, compliments, candid confessions, cash contributions? Contact me at butchersaprons@mail.com.


  1. Lovely in many ways!

    1. Thanks very much, glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Damn she was/is something special. Best musical guest shot ever on the Simpsons Mr. Plow. Her voice, her eyes ...

    1. True enough. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  3. She will always be my #1.
    I still .....yep....still have Hasten Down the Wind album cover above my desk.

    1. As you should, thanks for reading the blog and participating.