Linda Ronstadt

Andrew Threlfall / 16 April 2019

Seventies superstar Linda Ronstadt talks about life with Parkinson’s disease.

One of the biggest selling female artists of the 70s and 80s amassing over 100 million album sales worldwide, Linda Ronstadt last played live in 2009. Three years later in 2012 she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. 

“And I knew that I couldn’t hum along to the songs in the shower because of my Parkinson’s. So I just stopped overnight. Thankfully, I’ve just released my first-ever live album called Live in Hollywood but sadly I can’t sing along with the girl on the record from 1980.”

She turns 73 in July, and reflects with a degree of wistfulness but never with any sense of bitterness about how her singing voice has now completely disappeared. “I’m hopeful that they will find something new that can slow down this debilitating disease but I am not sure it will happen in my lifetime.” 

As one of the world’s most famous sufferers of the illness she is determined to raise awareness and much-needed funds to help others less fortunate than herself. The scale of her work on behalf of others is staggering. This, she attributes, to the support she has received, which “has overwhelmed” her. 

"Michael J Fox has been extremely helpful in putting me in touch with certain doctors but I have a very atypical type of Parkinson’s so the drugs that usually work on conventional Parkinson’s don’t work on me and actually make me sicker. The search for the right medicine has been very difficult but Michael’s Foundation have been very helpful and I speak to him on the phone from time to time.”

True to the thoughtful and caring person she is, Linda smiles when she tells me: 

“I try to fundraise as much as possible for Parkinson’s causes. In fact I went to Mexico this week taking 20 schoolchildren with me on a cultural music exchange with a dance group. I was determined to go even though flying with Parkinson’s is very, very difficult for me. I flew in first class to my old home city of Tucson, Arizona and then we drove the rest of the way across the borders. I hoped it would be ok to manage a five-day trip to Mexico. To cope with the discomfort. Just.”

It would be entirely inaccurate to say that there is no stopping Linda. Her voice might have been a force of nature, but she is astute enough to know that her health is likely to deteriorate albeit slowly. But this is a lady who is steadfastly determined to wring the most of her life. 

Live In Hollywood

Recorded on April 24, 1980, at Television Center Studios in Hollywood, the concert captures Ronstadt at the peak of her reign as America’s most popular female rock singer. For Live In Hollywood, Ronstadt selected 12 of her favourite performances from the original concert.

Live In Hollywood is out now on CD and Vinyl. The music is also be available through digital and streaming services.

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