Monday, August 26, 2013

Friday Dance Party: Last Cut Is The Deepest

There's good news and bad news this week on the Dance Party.  The good news is, our star, for the first time in a long while, is not dead.  The bad news:  her career is.
Linda Ronstadt
When Linda officially retired two years ago, we all wondered if something was up.  It was.  This week, Ronstadt gave an interview to AARP (which in itself makes us all feel old), in which she revealed her Parkinson's diagnosis.  She cannot sing a note, she says.  Thankfully, her plentiful output of music over the decades will live on.

The Linda Ronstadt Songbook is an eclectic one.  She has had one of the most varied careers of anybody in the recording industry.  She was one of the first breakout stars of the 60s to help invent the cross-over genre Folk Rock, and in the 70s, she was the first female solo act to play (and sell out) arena stages. 
Ronstadt's recordings of old standards were innovative, even
radical;  pop superstars had no interest in such music until
Linda struck gold with the oldies.

In the 80s, in the midst of her pop career, she teamed up with Nelson Riddle to release a trio of albums of standards, a move highly unusual for a pop-rock superstar.  The project was an unexpected smash, reinvigorating Riddle's career and bringing attention to the forgotten hits of the 30s and 40s. 
Linda received the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement
award in 2011.  She took the ranchera music of her youth,
blended it with a country sound, and invented "Mexican

Linda also had great success with Latin music. 
Our gal was a good collaborator, and provided substantial items with other stars such as Dolly and Emmylou.
Linda even dabbled in operetta, appearing as the soprano lead in Pirates of Penzance, winning a Tony nomination and recreating her unusual performance in the filmed version of the show.
Ronstadt surprised everyone with her performance as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, displaying an impressive soprano range.  The production moved from Central Park to Broadway and ran for years. (One of my favorite Dance Parties comes from the version taped in the park, go here to see Kevin Kline and Rex Smith stop the show.) Linda received a Tony nomination (she lost the award to Lauren Bacall) and a Golden Globe nod when the film version was released.
Ronstadt deserves a lot of credit for her wide variety of music, but when her name is mentioned, her pop songs come to mind.  She was an expert interpreter, and many of her biggest hits were plucked from the early days of rock and roll, and country. 
An attempt at legit opera, as Mimi
in La Boheme, flopped.

But she did more than simply cover earlier songs, she reinterpreted them so thoroughly that everybody thought they were new (at least, I did).  This week's Dance Party is an example;  Linda's recording revived interest in a long-forgotten Buddy Holly song from the late 50s.  The tune has since been covered by everybody from Paul McCartney to Zooey Deschanel.  The Beatles sang it, as did Alvin and the Chipmunks.  But Ronstadt's is surely the definitive version.  It's very sad to know she will never be singing it again.