Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Linda Ronstadt, The #17 Artist of the Seventies*

Ronstadt became interested in music at an early age, listening to everything from Rock to Country to Mexican.  At age 14, Linda, her brother Peter, and sister Suzy formed a folk trio known as the Union City Ramblers.  The group of siblings played coffeehouses around Tucson, Arizona.   Linda graduated from Catalina High School and then enrolled at Arizona State University.  It is there that Linda met Bob Kimmel, and the two left college to move to Los Angeles.  With Kenny Edwards, Ronstadt and Kimmel formed the Stone Poneys.  In 1967, the trio had a big hit with "Different Drum".

Linda released her debut solo album, Hand Sown...Home Grown, in 1969.  She opened on tour for the Doors, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Johnny Rivers, Neil Young, Arlo Guthrie, and Hoyt Axton, among others, and contributed backing vocals on several albums (Linda sings backup on Young's "Heart Of Gold" and "Old Man".)

In 1970, Ronstadt released the solid album Silk Purse.  It is astonishing that radio music directors did not recognize the amazing vocal ability displayed on the single "Long Long Time".  The song only peaked at #15 in Canada and #25 in the U.S., making it among the all-time best of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.  Linda got the last laugh when the song was nominated for Best Female Contemporary Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards.

The self-titled Linda Ronstadt album fared even worse.  The lead singer of the Stone Poneys was having a tough time getting her solo career going, so Ronstadt switched to Asylum records in 1973.  The album Don't Cry Now did go Gold, but only later as fans discovered two hidden gems on the album.  The first single was "Love Has No Pride", a #51 song in the United States, although it did score a #6 song on the Adult chart in Canada.

The next single, "Silver Threads And Golden Needles", met with similar results, a #67 song in the U.S. that now is loved by millions.

Linda gave a superb performance on a song that her backing musicians, the Eagles, wrote and recorded--"Desperado".

Ronstadt's breakthrough came in 1974 with her fifth album, Heart Like a Wheel, which went to #1 on the Album chart.  The single "You're No Good" went all the way to #1 in the United States and #2 in Canada.

Linda successfully followed up that smash with another, a remake of an Everly Brothers hit--"When Will I Be Loved", that reached #2 in the U.S. and #7 in Canada.

Those two big hits, as well as the beautiful title song, helped Heart Like a Wheel go Double Platinum. 

In 1975, Ronstadt released the album Prisoner in Disguise.  The single "Love Is A Rose" was racing up the charts when all of a sudden, Linda's label, Asylum Records, decided to push another song on the album instead.  So it was that "Love Is A Rose" was dropped, and "Heat Wave" became the big hit.

Ronstadt won a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female (for "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)", and Heart Like a Wheel was nominated for Album of the Year.  "Heat Wave" made it to #5 in the United States and #12 in Canada.

Prisoner in Disguise gave Ronstadt another Top 5 album and another Platinum album.  Linda then took the Miracles song "Tracks Of My Tears" and did what she does best, make it better.  It rose to #4 on the Adult chart, #25 overall.

Despite "Heat Wave" gaining higher priority, "Love Is A Rose" is still a great song.

Ronstadt released her compilation album Greatest Hits, which has gone over seven million in sales.

In 1976, Ronstadt released the album Hasten Down the Wind.  Linda's cover of the Buddy Holly smash "That'll Be The Day" rolled to #2 in Canada and #11 in the U.S.

Linda included a fabulous remake of the Patsy Cline smash "Crazy".
Once again, Ronstadt climbed into the Top 3 on the Album chart, and she won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance as the entire item was cited.  Linda tied a Rock Era record with her third consecutive Platinum album.  She would go on to obliterate the mark with eight straight Platinum releases.  Also included on Hasten Down the Wind is this gem, "Someone To Lay Down Beside Me".

Simple Dreams has now sold over three million copies.  The leadoff single "Blue Bayou" was a Top 5 song in three formats in both the United States and Canada, and New Zealand also put the song at #3.  The song was nominated for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards.

The album reached #1 for five weeks, the most successful release of Ronstadt's career.  Another Buddy Holly hit served Linda well--her remake of "It's So Easy" went to #5 in the U.S. and #9 in Canada.  In fact, Linda became the first female artist in the Rock Era to achieve two Top 5 songs at the same time--both "Blue Bayou" and "It's So Easy" took up residence there for the entire month of December.

The single "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" was a bit underrated at #26 in Canada and #31 in the United States.
There's no better cover artist than Ronstadt, and she scored with her remake of "Tumbling Dice" by the Rolling Stones.

Linda sang the U.S. national anthem prior to a World Series game in Los Angeles between the Dodgers and the New York Yankees.  Ronstadt was featured on the cover of Time magazine that year.  The compilation A Retrospective in 1977 sold another one million for Ronstadt.

In 1978, Linda released the album Living in the USA, her third consecutive #1 album that tied Carole King for the most career #1 albums by a female.  The single "Back In The U.S.A." interestingly enough did better in Canada (#8) than it did in the United States (#16).

The album has now gone over two million in sales.  Linda captured Billboard Awards for Female Artist of the Year, Pop Female Singles Artist of the Year, and Pop Female Album Artist of the Year.  The smash hit "Ooh Baby Baby" was next, #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #7 overall in the U.S. and #6 in Canada.

Ronstadt scored yet another hit with "Just One Look", which went to #5 on the AC chart.

Linda appeared in the 1978 movie FM, performing the songs "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me", "Love Me Tender", and "Tumbling Dice".  The following year, Linda went on an international tour, playing in arenas all over the world. 

Cashbox magazine named Ronstadt the #1 Female Artist of the Decade.  In 1980, Ronstadt released the album Greatest Hits, Volume 2, which has gone Platinum.

In 2011, Linda received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys.  She released her autobiography, Simple Dreams:  A Musical Memoir, in 2013.  It debuted in the Top 10 on The New York Times Best Sellers List.  Ronstadt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year.  This summer, U.S. President Barack Obama awarded Linda with one of twelve National Medals of Arts and Humanities.

Ronstadt sold over 18 million albums in the U.S. and scored 22 hits in the Seventies.  She placed six songs in the Top 10 with one #1 on the Popular chart, and scored four Top 10's on the Adult chart.

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