Why, when I write now about characters set in the late 50s and early 60s, do I listen to so much Linda Ronstadt?
My first memory of her was from back in the 1970s when I was attracted to her looks like so many other teenage boys. Her music didn’t interest me at the time; it was all Bowie, prog rock, glam rock, so the singing of a beautiful young woman didn’t really hit the mark. Then, just a few months ago I discovered her early singing with a group called The Stone Poneys. I’m not sure how this came about. It may have been I heard one particular song on the radio or it was just one of those ‘recommended’ videos that appear on the righthand side when you choose to watch something on YouTube. Some choice of mine must have brought up this song, ‘Different Drum’. And, wow, what an impact that song had on me. Yes, there was this stunningly beautiful young woman from the late 60s; yes, there was this wonderful song by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees; but it was the voice that caught me lock, stock and barrel.
A little research and I found out about The Stone Poneys and their folk song background. Linda’s vocals on their songs is very precise, full-vowelled and very English in its presentation. Yet on ‘Different Drum’ she lets go and gives us the hint of what could be lying underneath all that wholesome sound. I later discovered that the song was recorded not with The Stone Poneys but other musicians, which may explain why she felt freer to express herself. They had a minor hit with the song and it saw the launch of Linda’s career.
Further research, helped by more ‘recommendations’ on YouTube, took me to more songs of Linda’s. A visit to a local HMV store gave me a CD full of her hits. A few more were downloaded from iTunes. And I am well and truly captivated by Linda’s voice.
A few songs in particular stand out.
First, this version of ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?’. Firstly, what an epic song. And what an individual version by Linda. The band seem to be playing a very loose tune, some people commented it almost seemed like they were playing another tune! On CD I wonder if it was a recording of a live version, it sounds so natural. And Linda’s vocals and interpretation are incredible.
Next, ‘Stoney End’. I’m not sure I had ever heard this song before finding it on Linda’s list of recordings. It’s another wonderful version by the woman, really letting go with her vocals, such a balanced, piercing voice.
And lastly, or I will list all her songs, ‘A Long, Long Time’. Here her vocals are so melancholy, so powerful. What a voice she has, on all her songs. And so now I find these are the songs I play when writing about my PI in New York in the 50s and 60s, along with the Frank Sinatra ones I’ve written about before.
Linda is now battling a terrible illness, but at least we have all her fabulous recordings to listen to and watch.