Saturday of the week before last, Peter and I went to see Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice. I confess – I was never a fan of her voice. Of her, yes, very much. She chooses brilliant songwriters and songs to cover. And technically, she is as close as you can be to a perfect singer. But she never moved me. I want to hear a singer telling me the truth and with Ronstadt, I never knew what she was feeling. She was reciting words as if they had no meaning. I would tell people to play Ella’s version of “I’ve Got a Crush on You” next to Ronstadt’s version and tell me which one had soul and depth and meaning and which one did not.
Still I wanted to see the movie because she had led a fascinating live. She’s the Zelig of Southern California Rock. Her band, after the Stone Poneys, included Glenn Frey and Don Henley, who roomed together and ended up forming their own band. There are so many connections among the musicians and her from that area during that era that Warren Zevon never even came up during the movie.
The documentary starts with some Mexican singers during a fiesta and Ronstadt, in the audience, is softly singing along. It ends with her singing an old Mexican song with her cousin and nephew. She says she is not singing but she is. It is not the voice we are used to hearing on the old records, but it is still there.
The film is full of talking heads and footage of Ronstadt singing during various parts of her career – folk rock, rock, new wave, American standards, operetta, Mexican standards, country.
I cried during the parts when the talking heads or Ronstadt were talking about passion and needing to sing and not being able to. She sings with her relatives now because that is what she did when she was child. Despite the shaking from the Parkinson’s, she needs to sings even if it just in her family living room like she did when she was a girl.
Whether you are a fan of Linda Ronstadt or not, I recommend this documentary. It is a view into having a passion and being able to share it, it is a time capsule of a certain time in music history, and it is the portrait of a woman who made her own way in a male-dominated industry and did it the way she wanted to.
By Carene Lydia Lopez