Lovely Linda, Queen of the Country Rock Cover Song

You may have noticed that I have a distinct leaning in the direction of country rock, what with my continual references to Gram Parsons and all. Like a lot of other country rock fans of my generation, I was first introduced to the genre through Linda Ronstadt’s 1974 Grammy Award winning masterpiece, Heart Like A Wheel, which I got for Christmas the year it came out. The wise Wikipedia sages call this album “a pioneering blueprint of country rock”, and I have to agree with that assessment. Linda is not a songwriter – simply an extraordinary singer with a taste for country rock and an ear for a great song.

She was a part of the California folk and country rock scene in its infancy, performing at the same bars and ultimately touring with the likes of Jackson Browne and Neil Young. Her 1969 album “Hand Sown…Home Grown” is considered the first alternative country album released by a female artist. Her beautiful voice and charm combined with terrific songs catapulted Linda into tremendous fame in the 1970s, and from what I have read, it was pretty much the dream of every country rock songwriter to have his song performed by Linda Ronstadt. Everything she touched turned to gold.

Despite this, it seems that she faced a tremendous amount of sexism behind the scenes, even to the point of having trouble getting male back-up singers and being continually pressured to present some kind of tough-girl, leather-clad Suzy Quatroesque image, which she steadfastly resisted. And she stuck it out, and she followed her own muse, and she eventually moved into different genres and forms of music. I sometimes feel that the world has forgotten how influential she was and how significant her contributions were because she did eventually pursue other musical directions and became more of what used to be called  an “easy listening” type of singer. But the truth is – her contributions were enormous, bringing an entire genre of music to international attention and opening doors for female artists for years to come.

Plus, she was just absolutely adorable, wasn’t she? I always kind of looked to her as a role model – not just musically and as a powerful and successful woman, but because she was my fellow dark-haired girl in an era of “gentlemen prefer blonds”.  Also, the picture on the cover of her album, Living in the USA, caused me to wear satin gym shorts and knee high socks to the skating rink, so I guess you could say I was a true fan. Linda is now living with Parkinson’s disease and is no longer able to sing, which breaks my heart. So this week, which is sort of “girl power week” in my mind, in case you didn’t pick up on that from my last post, I want to celebrate lovely Linda’s amazing career and spectacular voice, which ranges from contralto to soprano, with these songs…

This is a prime example of Linda’s knack of giving outstanding but lesser known songs tremendous exposure. This is a Lowell George song and one of my favorites.  And by the way, I’ve called every “Alice” I’ve ever known “Dallas Alice” because of this song…

I love Linda’s version of “Tumbling Dice”. It seems that Mick Jagger was a fan, visited her backstage one night, and this is the result of that conversation…

This is one jam-packed with girl power…

This song is another of my personal favorites, and it’s been done by a lot of artists. But it is on Heart Like A Wheel, so this is the first version of it I ever heard, and it’s the one that plays in my head the most.

Okay, and I can’t resist…for bonus points, here is “In My Hour of Darkness”, with Linda and Emmylou singing along with Gram. Great pictures of all three here…

 God bless you and thanks for everything, Linda the Lovely.

Questions? Comments? Please share!

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Lovely Linda, Queen of the Country Rock Cover Song

  1. You really can’t deny the talents of Linda Ronstadt and you have a way of presenting all of your subjects in such a favorable light. So sad that she can no longer sing. Still would love to see you skating around in satin shorts and knee highs!

  2. Thanks, Marissa. As far as the skating rink, I couldn’t really skate, so it was mostly just standing at the edge of the rink in my satin shorts and knee highs, waiting for a boy to skate by, grab my arm, and pull me around the rink. So much for girl power, huh? Though I guess it was girl power of a sort, lol. I got a post about the skating rink somewhere back there if you wanna read it. 🙂

    • Sounds like something I would do. So, by the way, in my attempt to actually promote myself on Twitter which may or may not happen, I have decided to be a follower of Wildly Surmising. I have no idea what this means as Twitter still remains something elusive to me. Almost as elusive as finding this skating rink article you speak of so feel free to send me a link to it on one of my blogs or yours if you have time. I’m always bored at work and would much rather be reading one of your blogs.

      • Yay! I’ve been hoping you would get on twitter! I will follow you back and retweet your tweets! Do you know how to set it up so that your blog posts are linked on twitter and the twitter feed shows on your blog? That has helped increase my views. Also, I like it because I get to update my pals on what I am doing and listening to, etc. I try to tweet a couple times a day. Let me know if you need help with any of this. Also, be sure to follow these guys on twitter: @Sourcererblog, @PaperbackRocker, and @vinylconnexion as a start. I will help you come up with some more cool people to follow later if you wish. Rock on, my sistah!

        Here’s the link to my skating rink story:
        http://mywildsurmise.com/2013/12/15/echoes-from-the-skating-rink/

  3. My blog does get automatically posted on Twitter. I don’t know how to get the Twitter feed to show up on my blog. I’ll try to figure it out. Thanks for all your support. I got the Sourcerer (as you see) will add the others too.

  4. Vicki

    You seem to play the soundtrack of my misspent youth. Thank you again for the great memories.

  5. As a sound guy in a country rock band in the 70’s I spent many a night listening to many bad covers of Linda Ronstadt as she really was the Queen of country rock in her early days. And just like the Eagles who by the way started as her backup band for her first album on Asylum records she moved on to mainstream rock where she just nailed some songs better than the artists that wrote them. One listen to “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” by Warren Zevon and then listen to Linda’s version of the same song and as far as I am concerned “She owns it” she made that song her’s forever.
    And yes I did have more than a few fantasies of her after staring for hours at her “beauty” on some very provocative album covers but that’s a whole nother story for late time reading………………

    • I agree on all counts. She did a lot of songs better than the original, and she was drop dead gorgeous to boot. It makes me sad that she is sick. Not only is she unable to sing, but you can tell that the illness has taken a toll on her physically. She doesn’t look much like herself anymore. Damn Parkinson’s!

  6. Ms Ronstadt certainly had an ear for a good song and often – as you and others have reinforced – owned it to such an extent that we forget the originals. “You’re No Good” is an excellent example.

    Another cover I love is her rip-roaring version of The Knickerbockers mini-hit “Lies” from 1982’s “Get Closer”. Although I prefer the original, I love that a whole generation might have sought out this garage rock power pack from 1968 as a result of hearing Linda re-energise it.

    Personally, I was besotted with Linda for most of 1976 when “Hasten Down the Wind” occupied much turntable time and I croaked out my own heartfelt version of the (pronoun adapted) “If He’s Ever Near”. Sigh.

    • Aww, sweet story. Case in point on why I tried to model myself after her. Lovely, lucky Linda. The modern world may forget about her, but we won’t, right? Right. 😉

  7. A Graham Parsons lover along with Lovely Linda, yer my kinda gal!

    • Hi Michelle, my old friend from college, Stephen S., told me about you. He said we share similar musical tastes and that I should fOllow you on twitter. He was right! I will enjoy checking out your stuff. Thanks for commenting!

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