By E.M. Fredric
“People didn’t notice the difficulty of being a woman trailblazing and having the success of a Mick Jagger.” … Cameron Crowe
Los Angeles, CA – 09/10/2019 – Music biopics and documentaries have taken center stage over the past few years covering some of the world's greatest legends gone by or the ones of note that still remain. Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocket Man, Leaving Neverland, e.g. and more recently - the wonderful Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool documentary revealing why he was such an angry but prolific musician who changed the course of music by mutating his original style into new sounds that initiated change. Drug addictions ending lives - a sad but common reverb - in the world of music stardom.
Then along comes a documentary you'll want to see more than once. I did.
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice is a love letter from directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman who present her for what she was and who she is both yesterday and today. What a ride this documentary takes us on. Vocally she hits every mark from folk, opera, her Mexican roots while singing in Spanish - to rock star who nabbed a Governor along the way and was inducted to the Rock Hall of Fame in 2014. She always kept in mind what her mother said, “Do something with your life.” We are reminded of her ubiquitous light.
Ronstadt came from a musical family who played and sang together as a part of their daily lives. Her father loved Mexican music, her mother? Gilbert and Sullivan and her sister was the Country gal while her grandparents loved Opera. There is a poignant scene at the end where she sings along, in Spanish, with her cousin and nephew.
Her first and true love was and is music - a relationship Ronstadt has remained committed to even with Parkinson’s robbing her of the vocal abilities she once had. (She quit performing in 2009.) "It's like falling in love," Ronstadt says of her burning need to record the songs that spoke to her and performed them like she was "watching a film." and that "choice doesn't even enter into it."
Her eyes reveal a plethora of images as she sings – you feel her emotions. Ronstadt’s humanity and humility strike through, yet at the same time. she’s as ballsy as she’s vulnerable making for one of the most endearing pieces of RockDocs to come along. There’s no pretense. She tells her life story as a young woman and in reflection as the film is made – without remorse or pity – her presence dives into our hearts and soul. Much is missing but then she has accomplished such great heights – it would take many more filmed hours to give her the full dues deserved but the film is not short on accolades. You leave wanting to know and hear more.
We get a performing artist in surround sound – the film inhabits every choice she made to dare to venture her voice into different genres. Each time her current record label told her that it would ruin her career. Her answer was always, “I have to sing this.” Then the album would become a hit.
Some of her back-up player/singers became the Eagles and she made their song a hit. Desperado by Don Henley and Glenn Frey.
Linda Ronstadt recorded and released her version on her album, Don’t Cry Now. In Don Henley’s words, “It was really her that popularized the song. Her version was very poignant and beautiful.”
There are so many heavyweights in interviews and archival footage that speak about their experiences with Ronstadt. The men who’ve loved her or still do, the women who became comrades at a time when there were few female rock/pop stars of her stature and then there are those who just admired her for being Linda Ronstadt. The directors present solid evidence on how and why Ronstadt changed the game for “chick singers,” as they were frequently referred to back then.
Jackson Browne toured with her and they traded places on who opened the show. Browne says, “Try following Linda Ronstadt after she opens a show.”
We see a very real human being without all of the usual trappings associated with being a star of her magnitude. The drug addictions, groupies and fanfare that surround them destroying any sense of reality that they started off with - which she addresses openly. Mention is made of her use of diet pills phase but she's one of the lucky ones.
"That destroys them," she says. "It weakens them as people, and eventually weakens them as musicians."
She’s our treasure to hold close and admire like the diamond that still shines brightly in this 95-minute documentary.
Ronstadt powered 18 Top 40 hits between 1970 and 1987. Ronstadt can’t win enough awards for what she has contributed to music. She even out-swaggered Jagger on his song Tumbling Dice (FM) :
What a voice, what a star and more importantly – WHAT A WOMAN! She’s poignant, beautiful, haunting and a resilient force of nature as she is paid some of her dues in this poetically shot/edited homage.
To the younger generations who aren't aware of her, this is a must see/hear across the keys of this songster's history. The music scholars will be talking about this film one day and they’ve got a hell of a beginning with her illustrious career.
"Linda knew a good song, and she knew why it was good," singer-songwriter J.D. Souther says in one of the film's many admiring interviews. "And better than that, she knew how to sing it better than you could sing it."
Yes, she did.
Playing in limited theatres across the city.
I could live in a movie theatre or any theatre for that matter. Great vacations they provide us. I've been fortunate to be ibe a part of some wonderful projects and even created some worlds of my own.