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Singing silenced, Ronstadt elected to Hall of Fame

Just months after she told the world that her renowned singing voice has been silenced by Parkinson's disease, Tucson native Linda Ronstadt has been elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although Ronstadt has been eligible since 1994, she recently said she never considered herself a rock singer and didn't give much thought to ever be so honored.

Although in Tucson's she's now known more for her work covering traditional mariachi songs and appearances as a political activist, four decades ago Ronstadt was known as the "Rock's Venus."

Well before 1987's "Canciones de mi Padre," she launched her career in the late '60s with the Stone Poneys and went on to receive 11 Grammys, an Emmy, two Academy of Country Music awards, and be nominated for the Tonys and Golden Globes.

Heralded for her perfect pitch and a voice so powerful it challenged even the most sturdy microphones, Ronstadt recorded hits such as "You're No Good," "When Will I Be Loved," "Heat Wave," "Blue Bayou" and of course a cover of the Eagles' "Desperado" before turning her attentions to genres as varied as Broadway (appearing to acclaim in "The Pirates of Penzance"), a duet with Mick Jagger ("Tumbling Dice"), a failed opera (a short-lived production of "La Boheme") and a series of pop/jazz albums with arranger Nelson Riddle.

Her last album, recorded as the ZoZo Sisters, was 2006's Cajun-flavored "Adieu False Heart."

In recent years, Ronstadt returned to Tucson after living in San Francisco, but not long after moved back to the Bay Area, citing the noise of aircraft from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base flying over her Midtown home.

In August, Ronstadt, 67, announced that she is no longer able to sing, citing the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. She told AARP that she now uses poles to help her walk on uneven ground, and uses a wheelchair when traveling. She had stopped performing publicly in 2011.

In September, she told the LA Times that she wasn't concerned about not having been elected to the Hall of Fame:

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“It’s not anything I’ve ever given a second thought to,” she said ... I never thought of myself as a rock ‘n’ roll singer. I’ve thought of myself as a singer who sang rock ‘n’ roll, who sang this, who sang that."

In her recent memoir, "Simple Dreams," she wrote about her musical attitude:

"I never felt that rock and roll defined me,” she wrote. “There was an unyielding attitude that came with the music that involved being confrontational, dismissive, and aggressive—or, as my mother would say, ungracious ...."

Ronstadt's politeness led her to dismiss the 20th century's most combative musical movement: punk.

"I couldn’t understand the words. I like power but it has to have some intelligence. This was so constricted I would call it hemorrhoid music," she once famously said of the Ramones.

No word on her thoughts on her fellow inductees, Nirvana, who will join the leather-jacketed boys from Queens in the Hall of Fame, along with new members Peter Gabriel, KISS, Cat Stevens and Hall and Oates.

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2 comments on this story

2
555 comments
Dec 17, 2013, 5:03 pm
-0 +0

A classic, Bret.

I’ve had “Desperado” in my head all day (it’s one hell of an earworm), but for my money her work with Neil Young ranks as some of her best, singing backup on “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man” along with James Taylor.

1
1770 comments
Dec 17, 2013, 4:16 pm
-0 +1

When I think of her I always remember her on the Mr. Plow episode of The Simpsons where she appeared in a commercial for the Plow King Barney Gumble.

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