Linda Ronstadt on music

Andrew Threlfall / 21 June 2019

Linda Ronstadt talks about her incredible backing band, The Eagles, and names her one regret.

My backing band were The Eagles

"The very last song on my new album Live In Hollywood is me singing Desperado, the most beautiful song ever written by my very close friends Don Henley and Glenn Frey of The Eagles. It was a huge hit the first time I released it and it is the most popular song on the new album."

"It’s so wonderful to see The Eagles doing their world tour this year, and I find it just amazing to see Glenn’s son Deacon singing his Dad's parts on stage three years after he sadly passed. He looks just like him, it’s like a dynasty. I still remember the first time I heard Don Henley and Glenn Frey who became my backing band – I knew they were going to be massive stars.

"Can you believe it? I was so lucky to have Don and Glenn literally stood behind me on stage as I embarked on my career. Looking back, I probably knew that they would be the biggest American group of all time.

“I still speak to my old friend Don. He is an amazing fundraiser for so many great causes and incredibly supportive of all the work I try to do for Parkinson's charities. He even canvasses for official recognition of my career and would not stop asking for me to be inducted in to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

Learning to sing

“I really wasn’t a very good singer when I had Don and Glenn in my backing band. They were a lot better than I was. I was singing at two years of age but I don’t think I really became a good singer until I was 40. I have the heart and voice of an emotional and really loud Mexican singer – it’s not from rock ‘n’ roll and not from the blues that I learned how to sing pop music.

“If you really want to know my singing style, go on YouTube and look up Chavela Vargos  singing a song call Paloma Negra. Everything I know about singing is in that record. Hers is an incredible story because she was the great lover of Frida Kahlo but because she was gay, she was discriminated against in Mexico, so she left for Europe where she made an amazing comeback and then became famous again in Mexico. She was the best singer of Mexican folk music."

Why I had to sing in Spanish

"Performing my concerts I eventually got so sick of the repetition of singing my big hits like Blue Bayou that I realised the only way to leave it behind was to stop singing in English and move over to Spanish. At the time I just got so bored of them – I just needed to give the English language a rest.

“I had enough power with my record company that I just told them ‘I’m doing this Mexican album that I had wanted to sing for years. This is what you’re getting, and you have to like it.’ Only in 1980 did I really learn how to sing for the first time. because I started to sing Mexican music full time. To their credit, my record label put their shoulder to the wheel and helped to promote it and it won several Grammys."

"My family in Arizona lived directly across the wall from Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera’s house over the border in Mexico and my uncle actually collected their original art. My family were friends with Frida and when I was young they would tell me about her. I was fascinated, under her spell."

Linda Ronstadt’s one regret

"The song I deeply regret turning down is ‘Make You Feel My Love’ which Bob Dylan offered to me. I had a newborn baby at the time and I informed everyone around me ‘Please don’t let anybody contact me for work for a few weeks’. And weeks later I was told that Bob had been in touch to ask me to sing it. Years later it became a huge hit for Adele – when I heard that I said to myself “Oh my God I wish they’d offered it me again!”.

Linda Ronstadt’s Live in Hollywood album highlights 12 performances from her acclaimed 1980 HBO Special. Previously unreleased recordings, including “You’re No Good”, are available on the CD and LP.


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