By Duchess of Hackney

Hackney livin' n lovin'. Sarky frosty knickers always gobby, and perpetually pissed off for good reasons. Wind up merchant extraordinaire, but a nice old fashioned unusually unusual gal... Writing lots of wrongs.

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Linda Ronstadt voice silenced by Parkinson’s but thank goodness for her old standards

Linda Ronstadt voice silenced by Parkinson’s but thank goodness for her old standards

Since Linda Rondstadt announced last week that she is no longer able to sing due to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, there have been no shortage of feature articles and blog posts full of praise and looking back at her career. Many writers over the past few days have described her as “rock n roll legend” but my favorite phrase was “she had a hurricane of a voice.”

She is more than rock and roll.  Name any genre and she nails everyone of them; rock, country, jazz, standards, Latin and even Gilbert Sullivan (Pirates of Penzance). But you know what my favorite Ronstadt music is? Her collection of old standards she collaborated on, with Nelson Riddle and his orchestra. I can’t say I listened to much of her music as a teenager, even though she was at the height of her popularity during the 70’s and 80’s and the fact that I wasn’t too crazy about many of her soft rock/pop covers of other peoples songs makes it sort of ironic that I’m still crazy about her Nelson Riddle collection.

Sometime around 1988, a friend re-introduced me to her and I rediscovered old standards.  Rondstadt collaborated with the master arranger/conductor – Nelson Riddle. Her clean strong voice and her interpretation of the words and music of George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington (you have to hear her belt out Sophisticated Lady), Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin et al. Sure, all their songs had been done over by a zillion people, but in an era that was being dominated by MTV and the likes of Bon Jovi, I found it refreshing.  She and Nelson Riddle re-introduced the standards to another era and audience and re-ignited interest in a young 20 something like me. I began listening to more Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and still do.

The evening I first heard her Lush Life CD at Bills house, I played it in my car all the way home from Wilmington (a Los Angeles suburb) back to my home in the San Fernando Valley taking the 101 freeway and an hours drive away. The next day I hit the Tower Records on Ventura Boulevard near me. They only had two of the trio, so after I payed for them I headed for their branch on the Sunset Strip. Hey, a girl can never get enough of torch songs and songs of unrequited love :).

Linda Ronstadt at the 2008 ALMA Awards

Linda Ronstadt at the 2008 ALMA Awards

A few years later while holidaying in London, I found all 3 in a 3 set all in one CD, while browsing at a Soho record store, which meant I could have one in the car and one at home. In fact to this day I have 3 sets of her Nelson Riddle collection. When I went to prison I wasn’t allowed any of my old stuff, so friends and family had to send me everything brand new via book shops and record stores, remember this was before Amazon. Those three CD were amongst others that got me through 18 months of incarceration.

Parkinson’s Disease is no fun, I watched it ravage my grandmother so I’m sending good vibes to Ronstadt, who says she uses poles to walk on uneven ground and a wheelchair when traveling.

 

 Here’s a lively interview with her in Febuary:

http://www.gracecathedral.org/mp3/forum/for_20130210.mp3

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