Saturday, April 30, 2011

Linda Ronstadt, Back in the Day

I can't say that I've ever been a big fan of Linda Ronstadt, but the woman sure had (and probably still has) a powerful voice. Contrary to popular belief, a voice alone doesn't translate into knowing how to sing. Praising a singer because of his/her voice is like saying a writer has a nice pen. It's how the singer uses that voice that makes the difference. The average contestant on American Idol doesn't have a clue. They whine and warble without taste or discipline, stretching out syllables because they believe this technique enhances the drama in a performance. It does no such thing.

Ronstadt knew how to use her voice and achieved dramatic results honestly, by finding the emotion in the lyrics and acting them out under the direction of the melody. Her greatest performances, to my ears, anyway, can be found on her 1976 album, Hasten Down the Wind, the follow-up to 1975's Heart Like a Wheel which brought her a top 10 hit with "You're No Good," and made her a star after a decade or so of performing. Although Hasten Down the Wind was a major hit, its first two singles failed to reach the top 40. I remember hearing "Someone to Lay Down Beside Me" many times during the bone-chilling Cleveland winter of 1977, and yet it only climbled to number 42 on Billboard's national chart. "Lose Again" did even worse, gasping its last at number 76. Both songs were written by Karla Bonoff, and are classic torch ballads that gave Ronstadt great opportunities to show her stuff. A live performance of the latter from a 1976 concert in London is available on You Tube. It's well worth hearing and also a pleasure to watch. Ronstadt was quite the babe back in the day (to use a phrase that really should be retired, and soon).

© 2011 Brian W. Fairbanks


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