Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Lovely Songbird, Silenced

This may be the saddest story I’ve read all year, published in the blog of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP):
Legendary singer Linda Ronstadt, 67, told AARP today that she “can’t sing a note” because she suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosed eight months ago, Ronstadt began to show symptoms as long as eight years ago. But she ascribed her inability to sing to a tick bite (“my health has never recovered since then”), and believed the shaking in her hands resulted from shoulder surgery.
The once young, beautiful, and very highly paid singer--who has just come out with a new book titled Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir--confirmed her condition to The New York Times. “I can’t sing at all,” she told the newspaper’s Sam Tanenhaus during an interview in San Francisco. “I’m truly not able. I can’t sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ really.” She added: “If there was something I could work on, I’d work on it till I could get it back. If there was a drug I could take to get it back, I would take the drug. I’d take napalm. But I’m never going to sing again.”

I still have a couple of Ronstadt’s vinyl records, saved from the days when I first discovered her work, back in college. And I own all three of the jazz/pop standards collections she put together in the 1980s with arranger and composer Nelson Riddle. But this news makes me want to build up that stock. During her heyday, Ronstadt’s voice was so recognizable and moving. I can’t believe that it has finally been quieted.

* * *

In the video atop this post, we see Ronstadt’s rendition (delivered in November 1976 at London’s Victoria Theatre) of “Willin’,” a work by Little Feat singer/songwriter Lowell George that she included on her 1974 solo album Heart Like a Wheel. And click here if you’d like to watch her sing “Long Long Time” on a 1970 episode of the CBS-TV variety series The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

(Hat tip to L.A. Observed.)

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