In the past year or so, a slew of terrific but unrelated music documentaries (David Crosby: Remember My Name, Echo in the Canyon) have captured what Los Angeles was like the '60s. Add to the list Linda Ronstadt — The Sound of My Voice, a well-researched, touching film about how Ronstadt fought great odds to become a successful rock/pop singer.
The movie opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre, Chagrin Cinemas and Cinemark Valley View.
It opens with vintage footage of Ronstadt performing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and on The Midnight Special. It's readily apparent from these clips that Ronstadt had a potent voice from the start. Her success would stem from the fact that she capably straddled the pop and rock worlds with songs such as "You're No Good" and "When Will I Be Loved."
In a voiceover, a very humble Ronstadt says she just "popped out into the world" without any idea of "inventing" herself as a singer. Her parents met in Tucson, where her father courted the woman who'd become Ronstadt's mother by serenading her.
Ronstadt grew up on a cattle ranch where there was "a lot of music going on in the house." "We had amazing music in Tucson because it was really close to the border," she says in the film. "When I was growing up, I thought people sang in Spanish and spoke in English." She and her sister started a band together, but after her sister had kids, the band dissolved.
Ronstadt moved to Los Angeles in 1964 when she was only 18, forming a folk group called the Stone Poneys. They inked a record deal pretty quickly and scored a hit with "Different Drum." The song established Rondstadt as a star, and the Stone Poneys broke up as the record label sought to develop Ronstadt.
She acclimated to L.A. nicely, falling in love with singer-songwriter JD Souther and collaborating with guys like Don Henley and Glenn Frey. When Henley and Frey roomed together on one of Ronstadt's tours, they became friends and would form the Eagles in the wake of that tour. Ronstadt gave them a boost by covering their track "Desperado" on her 1973 album Don't Cry Now. She dated governor Jerry Brown for a spell and befriended singer-songwriter Jackson Browne.
The first artist to top the pop, country and R&B charts simultaneously, Ronstadt, a Rock Hall inductee, would go on to win 10 Grammy Awards. Her 1987 album Canciones De Mi Padre remains the biggest-selling non-English language album in American recording history. Not bad for someone who got her start singing Mexican songs at the family dinner table.