Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

And what a voice!

Like most people, I’m familiar with Linda Ronstadt’s classic folk, rock and country hits (and with her high-profile romance with California Governor Jerry Brown). She had the most amazing voice; clear, strong, precise and versatile. 

She burst on to the folk/rock scene in the 1960s and rapidly rose to the top. In a field dominated by men, she was the first genuine female rock star (she’s been called the “Beyonce of her day,” and a “musical Meryl Streep”). All the while she remained unaffected, humble, thoroughly professional and considerate of those around her. 

Eventually she got tired of arena rock and began to explore other types of music, and this is where the movie blew me away. Because I had no idea she at one point embraced Gilbert & Sullivan, of all things, appearing in Pirates of Penzance with Kevin Kline. And this was not merely a case of the producers accommodating a singing star. Take a look. She absolutely nails it. Then she moved on to Mariachi music and again brought down the casa with her total and forceful command of Mexican canciones. 

Small downside: The movie relies a tad overmuch on talking heads, including Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne and many others, often talking about themselves, but this is leavened by the artist herself providing the voiceover. 

Filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman close their film with a poignant, heartrending scene of Linda, her astounding voice now ravaged by Parkinson’s, singing along, if only a little, with a nephew and a cousin. This movie will create new fans, I’m sure. (95 min)