I will never forget the first time I heard Linda Ronstadt’s voice for the first time…

I was six years old and my sister, Becky, had just purchased Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits Volume 1 on vinyl. I remember being enchanted as I listened to Linda sing songs like “You’re No Good” and “Heat Wave”. Those two songs were probably my early favorites on that album, which I loved to listen to. When I was finally old enough to buy my own music, I purchased Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits Volume 1 and Volume 2 on two different CDs. I remember wearing those discs out, enthralled by Linda Ronstadt’s powerful yet tremulous soprano. As a singer myself, I would try to emulate her voice, which was majestic to my ears.

Linda Ronstadt has had quite an amazing career. She got her start in folk, then moved on to country tinged rock. In 1971, she had the guys who would eventually form The Eagles as her backing band. She made memorable music with wild guitar man Waddy Wachtel. And she has never been afraid to experiment.

I remember in the early 1980s, when Linda went from singing powerful rock and roll anthems to dabbling in big band music. She made three well-received albums with Nelson Riddle and won a whole new legion of fans. Of course, since I was still a kid in the early 80s, I didn’t appreciate Linda’s elegant foray into big band the way I might have if I had been older. In fact, I was kind of disappointed when I heard her start singing standards like “What’s New”. I missed her soul piercing wailing on songs like “Blue Bayou” and “When Will I Be Loved”. “What’s New” sounded like easy listening music to me…

Linda Ronstadt sings “What’s New”.

At age 41, I can now appreciate the lush beauty of Ronstadt’s big band hits. In fact, having performed some of these songs myself, I can understand why they appeal to so many. These are songs that will never truly go out of style and Linda’s voice has a sweet girlishness that helps keep them timeless.

Linda Ronstadt sings “I’ve Got A Crush On You”.

I have to confess that although Linda Ronstadt’s 1989 album Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind was a big hit, I was never really a fan of it. My sister, Betsy, gave me a copy of the album when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Armenia teaching English. I listened to the album a lot because I didn’t have that much music available to me, but it was a little too sedate for my tastes. Also, Aaron Neville, sang on it. I know a lot of people love Aaron Neville’s sensitive and nasal falsetto, but I never liked it that much. It’s only since I’ve gotten older that I’ve started to hear the beauty of Aaron Neville’s voice.

Nevertheless, Linda and Aaron made some magic together and scored big in the adult contemporary genre with “All My Life” and “Don’t Know Much”. I remember making fun of “Don’t Know Much” quite a lot back in the day.

I was really missing Linda Ronstadt’s huge rock voice, though, and would always go back to her earlier albums to hear that glorious voice belt out powerful, gut wrenching hits like “Hurt So Bad”. It’s hard to match the raw emotion of this cover and her voice takes on an other worldly quality that conjures up the searing pain of a breakup.

“Hurt So Bad”

And, of course, she made magic with Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou”. I much prefer her version to his.

Linda Ronstadt in 1983, singing “Blue Bayou”.

I was very sad the other day, when I read that Linda Ronstadt has Parkinson’s Disease and can no longer sing. The disease has affected the muscles that allow her to make music. Ronstadt, who was diagnosed eight months ago, says that no one with Parkinson’s Disease can sing. Because I am a singer myself, I felt particularly sad for Linda Ronstadt. I know how much joy I get from making music and how much it would devastate me if I couldn’t make music anymore.

Next month, Ronstadt will release a new book about her life entitled Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir. The book reportedly makes no mention of her Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis or the fact that she can’t sing anymore. I look forward to reading it, though, and hope that writing gives her an outlet for her formidable creative gifts.