I owe this entire Bang Envy post to the soundtrack that plays at my job... Every so often "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" comes on the stereo and everyone sings along to Linda Ronstadt. This made me dig a little deeper. After all, if everyone knows this song there must have been a time when La Ronstadt was on constant rotation. When was said idyll of pop music? Probably in the 1980s sometime on a soft-rock station, but why judge? The fact remains that Linda Ronstadt is a bona fide legend in her own time, and one who continues to bring the talent well into her sixties. According to her Wikipedia page:
"In total, she has released over 30 solo albums, more than 15 compilations or greatest hits albums. Ronstadt has charted thirty-eight Billboard Hot 100 singles, twenty-one of which have reached the top 40, ten of which have reached the top 10, three peaking at No. 2, the No. 1 hit, "You're No Good". In the UK, her single "Blue Bayou" reached the UK Top 40 and the duet with Aaron Neville, "Don't Know Much", peaked at #2 in December 1989. In addition, she has charted thirty-six albums, ten Top 10 albums, and three No. 1 albums on the Billboard Pop Album Charts."
Doing research on early Ronstadt I found some amazing pictures of her which show her as a fresh young singer capitalizing on the sweetspot between country, pop, and rock, and bringing the style to match. In her early days, Ronstadt seems to play up the look of an innocent young flower child, but within all of her cuteness there's an incredible amount of sex appeal. It's the best combination of the All-American Girl.
Born in Tucson, AZ of Mexican and German parents, Ronstadt began singing at 14 with her brother Pete and sister Suzy. At 17, she dropped out of college after just one semester and moved to Los Angeles where she met up with Bob Kimmel - a friend from home. Together they started a band called the Stone Poneys with Kenny Edwards in 1966. But just a few years later, in 1969, Ronstadt went out on her own.
The cover of Evergreen, Volume 2 by the Stone Poneys from 1967.
On the Johnny Cash Show in 1969. At 22, Ronstadt was invited for her first appearance on the Johnny Cash Show; during the rehearsal, June Carter Cash noted that the singer wasn't wearing any panties. Ronstadt's tart reply? "I sing better bare-butted."
Maria Muldaur, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, and Jim Beam in 1974.
Blazing a trail for "girl singers" in the 1970s, Ronstadt experienced the pressures and difficulties of relating to men musicians on a professional level. In a 1969 interview in Fusion magazine, she said it was difficult being a "chick singer" with an all-male backup band. But, finding her stride, she went on to become the most successful female singer of the 1970s with such albums as Heart Like a Wheel, Prisoner in Disguise, Hasten Down the Wind, and Simple Dreams.
All of her albums offer solid pop tunes that crossover easily into Country. Her mix of genres shows her complete vocal and stylistic versatility which was furthered later on in her career when Ronstadt recorded a number of albums of traditional Mexican folk and Ranchera music.
Also notable for her public romances, Ronstadt dated then California governor Jerry Brown, and was also engaged to George Lucas in the mid-1980s. Ultimately though, she adopted two children in the 1990s by herself and has never married. She remains a steadfast supporter of women's rights, gay rights, and is a vocal advocate of national arts programs. Most recently, Ronstadt spoke out against her home state of Arizona's controversial SB1070 illegal-immigration law, participating in a National Day of Action in January 2010.
On a trip to Africa with Jerry Brown in 1979.
The famous Rolling Stone cover from December, 1976. Image by Annie Leibovitz.
And what about "Poor Poor Pitiful Me"? Well, I ended up downloading Ronstadt's Simple Dreams album and have been listening to it on constant rotation. It is indeed a classic album for the ages, and if you don't have it, you should get it. To offer you another quote from Wikipedia:
At the end of 1977 Ronstadt surpassed the success of Heart Like A Wheel with her album Simple Dreams, which held the #1 position for five consecutive weeks on the Billboard Album Chart. It also knocked Elvis Presley out of #1 on Billboard's Country Albums chart. It sold over 3½ million copies in less than a year in the US alone. The album was released in September 1977, and by December, it had replaced Fleetwood Mac's long running #1 album Rumours in the top spot. Simple Dreams spawned a string of hit singles on numerous charts. Among them were the RIAA platinum-certified single "Blue Bayou", a Country Rock interpretation of a Roy Orbison song, "It's So Easy" – previously sung by Buddy Holly – and "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", a song written by Warren Zevon. The album, garnered several Grammy Award nominations – including Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance/Female for "Blue Bayou" – and won its art director, Kosh, a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, the first of three Grammy Awards he would win for designing Ronstadt album covers.
Simple Dreams became one of the singer's most successful international selling albums as well, reaching #1 on the Australian and Canadian Pop and Country Albums charts. Simple Dreams also made Ronstadt the most successful international female touring artist as well. The same year, she completed a highly successful concert tour around Europe. As, Country Music Magazine, wrote in October 1978, Simple Dreams solidified Ronstadt's role as "easily the most successful female rock and roll and country star at this time."