I just finished reading Linda Ronstadt’s book, Simple Dreams…
It’s safe to say that Linda Ronstadt is one of my musical idols. I have loved her music since the late 1970s, when my sister, Becky, brought home a copy of her Greatest Hits on vinyl. At the time, Becky was about 18 years old. I was six. I remember being enthralled by Linda’s searing soprano on songs like “You’re No Good”, “When Will I Be Loved” and “Heat Wave”. As I got older, I found more songs by her that I loved and when I became a singer myself, I learned many of her best known hits. I have fond memories of performing “When Will I Be Loved” at a gay bar in Key West, Florida and getting a very appreciative round of applause!
Linda Ronstadt sings “When Will I Be Loved”…
A couple of months ago, Linda Ronstadt announced that she suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, which has robbed her of her ability to sing. A few weeks later, her brand new book, Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir was released to the public. Naturally, I purchased it and just spent the last few nights reading about Linda Ronstadt’s life and extraordinary career. She has won twelve Grammys and worked with some of the biggest names in the music business, yet her upbringing in Tucson, Arizona was very normal and perhaps even idyllic. Her childhood was spent riding ponies and harmonizing with her musical sister, Suzy, and brother, Peter, and sharing Mexican songs with her father.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Ronstadt’s writing, which is very relatable and down to earth. Though she’s been a “girl singer” since she was a teenager, Ronstadt comes across as very learned. I appreciated the warmth she conveyed toward other musicians she has worked with, like Nelson Riddle, Rosemary Clooney, Andrew Gold, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, The Muppets (and their puppeteers) and Aaron Neville, just to name a few. Ronstadt’s book includes photos that illustrate her many anecdotes about her time in the music industry. Some of her stories surprised me as much as they entertained.
As a music lover and fellow singer, I found Linda Ronstadt’s revelations about how she decided on songs and how she learned them very interesting. Ronstadt writes that all artists emulate those they admire. That’s certainly true in my case. She’s one of several female singers who inspire me. She also explains that she can often hear who influences certain singers. As someone who listens to a lot of music and enjoys a broad range of styles, I agree with her comments about emulation and inspiration. Also, having spent so much of my youth on the back of a horse, I loved reading about Ronstadt’s love of equines.
Several subjects are conspicuously absent in Ronstadt’s book. She writes very little about her love life, though she does mention “keeping company” with California governor Jerry Brown. Ronstadt has two adopted children that she mentions once or twice, but writes nothing about them. I imagine she omitted information about her love life and her children out of respect for their privacy, though her children, in particular, are a big part of her life. Ronstadt makes no mention of her diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease and its effect on her voice. As there are many people afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease, it might have been a kindness if she had shared about her experiences, especially for others who sing and have lost their ability due to this disease. Many Ronstadt fans may also be disappointed that she keeps her comments about her albums somewhat shallow.
On the other hand, I was actually grateful that another topic was also conspicuously absent. In recent years, Ronstadt has come under fire for making political statements at her concerts. While I appreciate that everyone has a right to their opinions, I don’t go to musicians for their political views. I’m happy to report that Linda Ronstadt makes no mention of politics, except for the little bit she wrote about her time “keeping company” with Jerry Brown.
Overall, I basically enjoyed Linda Ronstadt’s memoir and would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about her life and career. However, be advised that some subjects one might expect to read about in her memoir are not extensively covered. If I were to rate this book on a scale of 1-5 stars, I would award three stars. I think it’s mostly a solid effort, though it could have been more complete and comprehensive.
Linda Ronstadt talks about Parkinson’s Disease…