SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A multiple Grammy award winner’s voice has been silenced by a debilitating disease. Now, in a rare interview, Linda Ronstadt opens up about her life and updates her many fans on her condition.
Hear her sing and it’s hard not to be moved. It’s the voice with the sterling silver pipes. She was rock’s first female superstar. Recently, the singer was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In a wide ranging interview at her home near San Francisco’s Baker Beach, Ronstadt described her life.
With Parkinson’s disease, she said, it is getting harder and harder to move.
“It’s hard to wash my hair, brush my teeth, and put my clothes on. It’s hard to get up and out of a chair.”
The disease has left her unable to sing. When she tries, she says she sounds like a barking dog.
“It wouldn’t sound like anything. I can’t get to the note. I can’t make any quality sound. I can’t arrange pitch. I might aim for a note and hit another one. It sounds like shouting,” said Ronstadt.
Ronstadt grew up in Tucson and moved to Southern California in the 1960s. Some newly-released photographs of Ronstadt taken by the late Jim Marshall are breathtakingly beautiful.
“I thought I was pretty good in Tucson. I got to L.A., and found out like I was nothing you know lower than an earthworm.” laughed the singer.
But her “lowly” status did not last for long at all: her remarkable multi-octave voice caught global attention. She’s now sold more than 100 million records.
Her album covers are as famous as her music and her music is incredibly diverse: from Gilbert and Sullivan to traditional mariachi.
One traditional Mexican music recording, “Canciones de mi Padre,” stands as the top-selling foreign language album in American record history. It is the music of Ronstadt’s childhood.
“I wanted to record it. The songs are so beautiful Mexican traditional music is just gorgeous,” explained Ronstadt.
Her collaborations are legendary: from singing duets with Aaron Neville, a “trio” with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, to belting out her signature song “Blue Bayou” with an army of frogs on “The Muppet Show.”
Ronstadt adopted two children. She never married, but dated some high-profile men — including California Governor Jerry Brown.
“Tt was great fun we had a great time and he’s doing such a good job now as governor,” says Ronstadt. “And we’re still friends.”
Earlier this year, President Obama honored the singer with a National Medal of Arts.
At the ceremony, as the President draped the medal around her neck, he whispered how as a kid, he had a crush on her.
He’s not alone. We imagine many of us still do. While Ronstadt no longer sings, she can write. Her memoir Simple Dreams soared to best-seller status within a week of publication. It’s now available in paperback.
Simple Dreams Memoir
National Medal of Arts