A blast of Americana this weekend. Linda Ronstadt in concert at The Record Plant in Sausalito and broadcast live by KSAN-FM in San Francisco on November 18, 1973.
Ronstadt is considered an “interpreter of her times”, and has earned praise for her courage to put her “stamp” on many of her songs. Nevertheless, her hits were criticized in some quarters for being cover songs. Ronstadt herself has indicated that some of her 70s hits were recorded under considerable pressure to create commercially successful recordings, and that she prefers many of her songs that were non-hit album tracks. An infrequent songwriter, Ronstadt co-composed only three songs over her long career.
Ronstadt’s natural vocal range spans several octaves from contralto to soprano, and occasionally she will showcase this entire range within a single work. Ronstadt was the first female artist in popular music history to accumulate four consecutive platinum albums (fourteen certified million selling, to date). As for the singles, Rolling Stone pointed out that a whole generation, “but for her, might never have heard the work of artists such as Buddy Holly, Elvis Costello, and Chuck Berry.”
Music is meant to lighten your load. By singing it … you release (the sadness). And release yourself … an exercise in exorcism. … You exorcise that emotion … and diminish sadness and feel joy.
Others have argued that Ronstadt had the same generational effect with her Great American Songbook music, exposing a whole new generation to the music of the 1920s and 1930s – music which was pushed aside because of the advent of rock ‘n’ roll. When interpreting, Ronstadt said she “sticks to what the music demands”, in terms of lyrics. Explaining that rock and roll music is part of her culture, she says that the songs she sang after her rock and roll hits were part of her soul. “The (Mariachi music) was my father’s side of the soul,” she was quoted as saying in a 1998 interview she gave at her Tucson home. “My mother’s side of my soul was the Nelson Riddle stuff. And I had to do them both in order to reestablish who I was.”
In the 1974 book Rock ‘N’ Roll Woman, author Katherine Orloff writes that Ronstadt’s “own musical preferences run strongly to rhythm and blues, the type of music she most frequently chooses to listen to … (and) her goal is to … be soulful too. With this in mind, Ronstadt fuses country and rock into a special union.”
By this stage of her career, Ronstadt had established her niche in the field of country-rock. Along with other musicians such as the Flying Burrito Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Swampwater, Neil Young, and the Eagles, she helped free country music from stereotypes and showed rockers that country was okay. However, she stated that she was being pushed hard into singing more rock and roll.
Author Andrew Greeley, in his book God in Popular Culture, described Ronstadt as “the most successful and certainly the most durable and most gifted woman Rock singer of her era.” Signaling her wide popularity as a concert artist, outside of the singles charts and the recording studio, Dirty Linen magazine describes her as the “first true woman rock ‘n’ roll superstar … (selling) out stadiums with a string of mega-successful albums.” Amazon.com defines her as the American female rock superstar of the decade. Cashbox gave Ronstadt a Special Decade Award, as the top-selling female singer of the 1970s.
Her album covers, posters, magazine covers – her entire rock ‘n’ roll image – were as famous as her music. By the end of the decade, the singer whom the Chicago Sun Times described as the “Dean of the 1970s school of female rock singers” became what Redbook called “the most successful female rock star in the world.” “Female” was the important qualifier, according to Time magazine, which labeled her “a rarity … to (have survived) … in the shark-infested deeps of rock.”
Although Ronstadt had been a cult favorite on the music scene for several years, 1975 was “remembered in the music biz as the year when 29-year-old Linda Ronstadt belatedly happened.”
As a reminder, here is that appearance at The Record Plant, heard live over KSAN in San Francisco on November 18, 1973.
Crank it up and enjoy.