When Linda Ronstadt announced that her battle with Parkinson’s had left her unable to sing, the world mourned the loss of one of music’s greatest voices. By turns powerful and delicate, but always beautiful, Linda’s voice brought her phenomenal success in a career that stretches back almost fifty years. Critics and fans alike rightly lauded Linda’s ability to interpret a song, but few noted the impact she had on other musicians of the day, as well as today’s alt. country movement.
When Linda left the folk-rock band the Stone Poneys and embarked on her solo career in 1969, she established herself as an interpreter of songs. Taking a cue from alt. country pioneer Gram Parsons, she recorded a mix of rock and country songs that set the tone for artists to come, including her friend Emmylou Harris. She covered Waylon Jennings, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Dusty Springfield, and Carole King with equal love and respect. On top of the music, Linda’s innovative “country cool” image had an impact that can still be felt today, with artists such as Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood as heirs apparent. Then, of course, there was the time Linda’s backing band decided to strike out on their own. They called themselves the Eagles and became one of the most successful bands of all time. Below are some examples of Linda’s early country-rock hybrid sound.
In this early music video, Linda performs her debut single “Baby You’ve Been on My Mind”, a Bob Dylan cover.
Johnny Cash introduced Linda the solo artist to the world on his show in 1969. She performs Waylon Jennings’ “Only Mama That’ll Walk the Line”, then duets with Johnny on the folk standard “I Never Will Marry”, to a rapturous audience.
Linda returned to the Johnny Cash Show the next year to perform “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”.
Linda appeared on the Glen Campbell show to perform her first big hit, “Long Long Time”. She also duetted with Glen on James Taylor’s “Carolina in my Mind”.
Linda appeared on Playboy After Dark to perform “Walkin’ Down the Line”….
…and “Living Like a Fool”.