Listening to Linda Ronstadt

Among the more interesting items my recently deceased step mother possessed was a five-CD set of Linda Ronstadt’s solo albums with each album’s original cover reproduced into five cardboard sleeves. All the albums are from the late 70s and early 80s.

When I examined these dreamy covers, particularly the one of Ronstadt in tight shorts, tube socks and roller skates, I was instantly reminded of my crush on her in junior high and high school even though I never bought one of her albums and knew only her big FM hits, almost all of them covers. And I also remembered the story of how this pop/rock pinup queen would sneak in and out of then-California Governor Jerry Brown’s mansion in Sacramento. Oh for the return of that sort of controversial behavior from the contemporary political class and pop music superstars! More Gary Hart and Wilbur Mills and less Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz.

As I perused the covers and the track lists, Linda’s voice whispered: play me. A long drive across Oregon loomed in a few days so I packed up Linda and planned to listen to all five CDs in a row in transit.

And that’s what I did.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Linda could absolutely rock Buddy Holly and shred a power ballad such as “Hurts So Bad” and has such a growl on the rockers. She wasn’t songwriter; she was a singer and when she covered a song she killed it and made it her own (e.g. Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” a truly odd song loosely about S & M.

All albums ran about 10 tracks, 35 or 40 minutes long, and I was intrigued by her musical changes when the 80s rolled around and she was belting out arena rockers with lots of New Wave sounds.

It occurred to me listening that I would have loved to played in a Linda Ronstadt cover band, and I once did know a female singer who could have pulled it off.

I don’t know what song it was, but Linda sang a line that went something like, “Look out neighborhood, my love is coming around.”

Gold. Gold. Gold. Linda sang it as a threat! Why not? Why shouldn’t we threaten our neighbors with love! God knows many Americans neighborhoods and their angry residents are utterly staved for love.

Well goddammit, let’s give it to them!