Linda Ronstadt was born with a noncon¬ forming spirit. Her rebelliousness fed an inventive music career that has embraced numerous styles and lasted several decades. She was born into a musical family in Tucson, Arizona. Her grandfather, Federico Ronstadt, emigrated from Mexico to Tucson in 1882.
He organized a popular musical group there, in addition to a successful carriage busi¬ ness. Federicos daughter Luisa (Ronstadt’s aunt) became the internationally known Hispanic folk singer and actress Luisa Espinel. Ronstadfs father owned a hardware store in Tucson and was not a professional musician, but he loved to sing and play Mexican music with his daughter.
At the age of six, Ronstadt decided she wanted to become a singer. At the age of eighteen, Ronstadt dropped out of the University of Arizona to sing with her boyfriends band, the Stone Poneys,in Los Angeles. The band was moderately successful, opening for The Doors on a con¬ cert tour and releasing a hit single, “Different Drum,” in 1967.
In that same year, however, the band broke up, and Ronstadt was on her own. She embarked on a solo career, releasing her first album, Hand Sown… Home Grown, in 1969 and her second album, Silk Purse, in 1970. Both albums were some of the first to successfully blend country music with rock n’ roll.
Ronstadt’s early years as a professional musi¬ cian were not without difficulty. She battled a stressful concert schedule, drug problems, trou¬ bled romances, and a bad case of stage fright. Eventually, she conquered her demons and went on to become the premiere female rock star of the 1970s. She had a series of platinum (mil¬ lion-selling) albums.
Many of her hits, such as “When Will I Be Loved?,” “Blue Bayou,” and “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,” became the signature songs of a generation. Ronstadt is also a gifted soprano. In 1981, she surprised critics and fans with her perform¬ ance of Mable in the Broadway opera produc¬ tion of The Pirates ofPenzance.
Few performers have successfully transitioned from rock n’ roll to opera, but Ronstadt accomplished it. In the mid-1980s, Ronstadt made yet anoth¬ er daring crossover with the release of three albums of vintage torch songs, What’s New, Lush Life, and For Sentimental Reasons.
During the 1980s, Ronstadt also called attention to herself outside of the musical arena when she became romantically involved with Jerry Brown, then governor of California. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ronstadt returned to her roots with the release of two albums featuring her father’s favorite mariachi songs. The albums were popular with critics and fans, and they further demonstrated her seemingly limitless musical versatility.