She was known as the queen of country rock in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, but Linda Ronstadt has always been so much more.
She’s sold 100 million records and won 10 Grammys for songs in wildly different musical genres, including rock, country, Latin, and pop. When she tried her hand at opera, she received a Tony Award nod and a Golden Globe nomination for her stage and screen roles in The Pirates of Penzance. For decades it seemed there was nothing Linda couldn’t do—or sing. But things took a turn in 2000, when her once-powerhouse voice began to fail her.
"I'd start to sing and then it would just clamp up," Linda told CBS Sunday Morning in early 2019. "My voice would freeze. And I said, 'There's something wrong with my voice.' And people would say, 'Oh, you're just a perfectionist.' I go, 'No, there's really something systemically wrong.’”
The years went by and Linda’s voice continued to deteriorate but she never understood why. She delivered her final stage performance in November 2009, but it wasn’t until a few years later that she revealed she had Parkinson’s disease.
She received the shocking diagnosis in December 2012, as she was finishing her memoir, Simple Dreams. The following year, she went public with her condition in a rare candid interview with AARP, also revealing another heartbreaking bombshell: “I can’t sing a note.”
"It's like not having a leg or an arm, but there's nothing I can do about it," she told People in 2019 of the disease that robbed her of her singing voice.
These days, the rock icon can’t walk far and has severe back pain that keeps her mostly homebound. But while Parkinson’s may have stolen her voice, her spirit—and her legacy—remains stronger than ever.
“In my mind—in my imagination—I can still sing,” she told People.
In 2014, Linda was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. She also won a Kennedy Center Honors award in 2019.
Now, she’s back in the spotlight for the release of a new documentary, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice. In the documentary, friends and colleagues Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and more tell Linda’s story and sing her praises.
It may be difficult for young music fans to understand the scope of Linda’s talent and fame, but fellow country rock legend Bonnie Raitt hits the point home in a recent interview.
“What Beyoncé is now is what [Linda] was, the first female rock star,” she said.
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