The brilliance of the singer Linda Ronstadt was introduced to a whole new audience in February 2023, when her version of Gary White’s Long, Long Time was featured on the soundtrack to HBO’s hit apocalyptic zombie series The Last Of Us.
Eleven-time Grammy winner Ronstadt, the only woman to earn five platinum albums in a row, shot straight to the top of three Billboard rankings, including the Rock Digital Song Sales, after streaming demand to hear her silken voice jumped by nearly 15,000 per cent in just a few days.
Listen to the best of Linda Ronstadt here.
On singing: “It was something I could do easily when I was healthy”
In the 70s, Ronstadt’s covers of You’re No Good, When Will I Be Loved and It Doesn’t Matter Anymore helped define the sound of a whole decade, and they still rank among the best Linda Ronstadt songs. Now 76, she delivered her final stage performance in 2009. In 2012, she was diagnosed as having Parkinson’s disease. A re-evaluation in late 2019 changed her diagnosis to the similar but rare brain disorder, progressive supranuclear.
Ronstadt, speaking on the phone from her San Francisco home after the release of her excellent memoir Feels Like Home: A Song For The Sonoran Borderlands (Heyday Books), said that when she was growing up in Tucson, Arizona, her father, Gilbert Ronstadt, who led a band called The Star-Spangled Megaphone, helped form her musical tastes by introducing her to some of the singing greats.
On her influences: “I remember being enchanted by Billie Holiday”
“My dad bought lots of records home,” says Ronstadt. “I remember being enchanted by Billie Holiday. She invented pop music and the things we all later did. She made music so intimate. She and Frank Sinatra are the two biggest influences on popular singing in the 20th century. I tried to do what they did.”
2023 marks an important anniversary for Ronstadt. In October 1973, she released her fourth solo album, Don’t Cry Now, the first of her studio releases for Warner Bros’ Asylum Records, which marked the start of a long and successful professional relationship. That album included a touching version of Randy Newman’s mordant song Sail Away.