Since I read that Linda Ronstadt at 67 years of age has had to stop singing because of Parkinson’s disease, I keep hearing her voice at the back of my mind. Sarah Larson in the New Yorker says Ronstadt’s voice helped us get through a ‘wild time’:
She manages to sound like she’s holding back even when she’s singing full throttle—she’s knocking your socks off, but it doesn’t faze her. In fact, she’s just giving you what you can handle. The sound of Ronstadt’s voice—invincibility, bravery, emotion channelled into intelligence and art—is the sound of overcoming anything
I was given an old tape of Linda Ronstadt singing ’70s songs only when the turbulent 1980s were well under way and her gutsy raunched-up C&W was already a little dated, but I remember lying awake on hot summer nights wondering what her music touched in me, so far away, from such a different culture. Outside there was the clatter of late night trains passing, cars turning off the highway, suburban hedges of oleander and myrtle. Police sirens too: more sinister under apartheid. And back then, the cities were filled with desperados, the divorced men crying into their drinks in bars, the single women lying awake and wondering what had gone wrong, the married couples with nothing left to say to one another, the disillusioned habitues of the Hotel California. And there was Ronstadt singing as background music, belting it out with feeling.
Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds boy
She’ll beat you if she’s able
You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet