relatively little is known about linda ronstadt, considering her stature as one of music's most widely recognized and respected artists. with a career that has spanned decades and deftly tackled such disparate genres as rock, pop, jazz and latin, one would think that the life story of this reluctant celebrity would be as commonly known as that of the immortal rock goddess tina turner (whose autobiography, i, tina, was turned into the 1993 angela bassett/laurence fishburn star vehicle what's love got to do with it?), but wise reticence on ronstadt's part has kept her private life, for the most part, private, leaving media pundits wondering and, in some cases, incorrectly speculating about her personal affairs.
born in 1946, ronstadt was raised on an arizona ranch, in an area outside of tuscon that has since been overrun by housing developments. her fatherwho owned the ranch and a hardware storeand mother contributed both to ronstadt's varied cultural make-upgerman, english, dutch, mexicanand her interest in music. her father, siblings and mother were all musically inclined, making music a way of life for the ronstadt family; while ronstadt's mother exposed her, via radio, to country, opera and the standards of the day, her father educated her in the rich musical culture of her mexican ancestry. but the history of the ronstadt clan as both artisans and artists extends much further back than linda ronstadt and her immediate family. in fact, so significant is the contribution of the ronstadt family to the development of the state of arizona that the university of arizona's library chronicles the contribution both within its facility and online, noting that the family's influence, like ronstadt's career, has touched and improved diverse fields, including wagon making, pharmacies and, of course, music. living in the american southwest, music was also a means by which to both celebrate life's joys and endure its hardships, as ronstadt explained to rolling stone contributor karen schoemer, "those musical experiences in tucson were extremely satisfying they got you through having to wash the dishes or through an evening in our isolate, rural area or through our grandmother's funeral or somebody's tragic accident when he shot his arm off with a shotgun."
when ronstadt was eighteen, she followed her muse to los angeles, banding together with a folk group known as the stone poneys. though the group enjoyed minor hits with the folk releases "different drum" and "long, long time", it wasn't until ronstadt launched her career as a solo artist, in 1968, that things really began to take off. though, in retrospect, ronstadt is reluctant to recognize the glamourous image that the multitude of her fans perceived, it is undeniable that songs like her debut solo hit, "you're no good", thrust her into the center of the folk/rock scene for the remainder of the decade. ronstadt credits her upbringing for her modest demeanor, though her lack of narcissism did not come without a price. rumors of ronstadt's intense stage fright are widely acknowledged. though she toured, as one would expect, to support her albums and connect with her fans, she had no particular love for life on the road, or for performing in front of large audiences that would expect light-hearted banter and raucous behavior during a performance. fortunately, ronstadt's crystal clear and powerful voice spoke volumes. at the commercial height of her career, ronstadt was pulling in more than nearly any other female performer. this is a particularly spectacular feat considering both that rock is a male-dominated industry and that, until recently, female musiciansin any genre were compensated not nearly as well as their male counterparts for their talents.
continually uncomfortable in the glaring brilliance of the spotlight, but determined to continue persuing her dream, ronstadt decided, with the turn of the decade, to continue to develop her vocal talents while, perhaps, garnering a little less attention. roles in broadway adaptations of the pirates of penzance and la bohème established ronstadt as being able to sing material other than pop and rock, and led to three consecutive albums with the nelson riddle orchestra. aside from allowing ronstadt to grow and demonstrate her talent for singing jazz standards, lush life, for sentimental reasons and 'round midnight: the nelson riddle sessions exposed an entirely different audience to ronstadt's considerable skill as a vocalist. another trilogy of albums departing from her original pop/rock formatthis time focusing on traditional and modern latin materialexposed another facet of this ever-changing artist. one of the three, in particularcanciones de mi padreearned ronstadt critical acclaim, while simultaneously endearing her to that latin music-buying public. though these six albums were met with varying degrees of commercial and critical success, that is not to say that ronstadt did not score big during the eighties. aside from having acheived her goal of continually exploring the possibilities of her artistic expression and temporarily escaping the din of high-profile success, ronstadt did manage to overtake the airwaves several times throughout the decades, most usual with collaborations with artists such as james ingram ("somewhere out there), dolly parton and emmylou harris (trio), and aaron neville ("i don't know much").
over the years, ronstadt has been linked, romantically, to a variety of famous men, including olympic athletes, a-list directors, award-winning actors and, of course, the occassional musician. perhaps early interviews, in which ronstadt gave candid glimpses into her personal life, have taught her to be more guarded when speaking of things dear to her. whatever the reason for ronstadt's aparent reclusiveness, the end resultone that ronstadt herself has identified as desirablehas been that journalist and fans have been forced to focus on her undeniably impressive body of work. what little is known about ronstadt's current life has her living in san francisco, california, with an adopted daugthera domestic bliss which may have inspired appearances with the muppets and the release of dedicated to the one i love, an album of children's songs. other than that, the only views into the soul of this mysterious diva come through her music, which she's the first to say provide little insight into her character, "whatever i evoke for Za] person, rock on. but i don't want that person to project that onto me, because they will never have any idea of what i was going Zthrough]. it might be something s mundane as my grocery list, and it might be something profound that i will never tell, anyway, so they'll never know."
another musical avenue down which ronstadt has traveled has led her to unite, artistically, with two of country music's greatest luminariesdolly parton and emmylou harris. though ronstadt does not consider herself a country artist, trio and trio II have country music affecionados singing her praises. the recent release of a ronstadt/harris album, western wall: the tuscon sessions, has generated similar enthusiasm from both those in and outside of the country music scene. aside from the three collaborative albums which ronstadt and harris have produced, the former has also sung on several of the latter's albums, including elite hotel, pieces of the sky, blue kentucky girl, and evangeline.
repeated refusals to subject her personal life to the media have resulted in linda ronstadt being labeled "difficult". stellar collaborations with peers such as aaron neville, emmylou harris and dolly parton have identified her as a true musician, who has much more to offer the industry, and her public, than an alluring "rock chick" image.three decades in the music industry, over two dozen albums bearing her name and a musical talent that reconizes few equals mark her, above all else, a diva.