It seems Linda Ronstadt has always done the unexpected. In the later part of her music career, the queen of rock started making albums of traditional mariachi music:
Linda Ronstadt performs “La Cigarra”:
And today the woman who admits that she can’t cook has put out a memoir that is focused, in part, on recipes, from the Ronstadt family’s meatballs to the perfect tortilla.
Tortillas are something about which, she says, she is very particular: “Yeah, I don’t think anybody I know can make them. You have to start when you were a kid and learn how to do it. I try to make ’em, and they just look like amoebas!”
But she can tell a good story. In her new memoir “Feels Like Home,” Ronstadt writes about growing up on the family ranch near Tucson, Arizona.
Correspondent Tracy Smith asked, “It seems to be that there are two things that tie us to our past, to our family: Music and food.”
“Yeah, our past is who we are,” Ronstadt said. “It doesn’t have to define you. If you have a bad past, you can make up for it! Everybody’s interested in where they came from.”
Both of her parents were musically inclined, so little Linda grew up with a taste for singing – and just about everything that came out her family’s kitchen, like ranch food: “It’s for ranchers and farmers, very simple, beans and tortillas. My favorite thing in the world.”
But her world has gotten smaller of late. A brain disorder called progressive supranuclear palsy robbed her of her ability to sing out loud.
- (“Sunday Morning,” 2/3/2019)
So, she’s found other ways to say what’s in her heart.
Indicating Ronstadt’s book, Smith said, “Even though maybe your singing voice doesn’t work, you still have a voice.”
“I think about end-of-life issues a lot,” Ronstadt said. “But, we don’t know when we’re gonna die. I might get hit by a bus tomorrow; I might die of this disease I’ve got. It’s slow-moving, but it moves. But I’m not gonna worry about it. I have other things to worry about. Like the cat peed on the rug or something, real issues!”
For a girl who grew up with Mexican music, it seems fitting that a Mexican song inspired her to sing again, if only for a moment. In the documentary “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice,” she joins in on a family sing-a-long:
Linda Ronstadt and family sing the Mexican ballad “La Orilla De Un Palmar”:
“I’m not singing,” Ronstadt said. “That’s not singing.”
“You don’t think that’s singing?” asked Smith.
“I was grunting along with him.”
She’s also famous for being a perfectionist, but she says it is getting increasingly hard for her to hear her own music, or anyone else’s.
Smith said, “So, if we put on one of your songs, like ‘Blue Bayou’?”
“I go, ‘Who did that mix? It sounds terrible!'”
“And you can’t hear those high notes?”
“Unh-uh. That’s all gone. I can’t either do it or hear it. So, I have to fill in from my imagination.”
“So, even if you can’t hear it, you can still remember it?”
“I can remember it, yeah.”
Thankfully, so can we. Like Linda Ronstadt herself, some things are unforgettable.
Linda Ronstadt performs “Blue Bayou”:
For more info:
- “Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands” by Linda Ronstadt and Lawrence Downes; photographs by Bill Steen (Heyday), in Hardcover, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound
Story produced by John D’Amelio. Editor: Steven Tyler.
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