One of the biggest regrets of my life came my senior year of high school. The year was 1996 . . . the bicentennial of our nation . . . an election year. One of the presidential candidates was Jerry Brown, the then governor of the state of California and also the boyfriend of Linda Ronstadt. My children talk of having “man” or “woman” crushes on famous celebrities . . . one of mine has always been Linda Ronstadt. She has been one of mine since I started listening to music . . . through the Stone Ponies . . . through her rock-n-roll years . . . through her “Trio” years with Emmy Lou Harris and Dolly Parton . . through her big band era . . . through her Mexican heritage period . . . and, even through her brief dabbling in punk music . . . Linda Ronstadt has always been one of my favorite singers of all time.
My senior year of high school . . . 1976 . . . she went campaigning for her boyfriend, Jerry Brown. With the Eagles and Jackson Browne she hit the road to raise money through concerts for her boyfriend’s campaign for the presidency. That was the first year I could vote and he had my vote . . . I don’t know what his platform was, but if he was good enough to have landed Linda Ronstadt as a girlfriend, he had my vote and admiration. The fundraising trail made its way all the way to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where I was a senior at Wheaton Senior High . . . it was a concert that had three of my favorite performers and I had a free ticket to attend. My crush, plus two of my favorite musical artists and bands . . . I was in seventh heaven.
Unfortunately, the unscheduled concert coincided with the school play. The school play . . . How to Succeed In Business . . . of which I was the stage manager was showing on the same night as the concert. Actually, I had two free tickets that weekend of the school play . . . the Brown fundraiser and Paul McCartney and Wings Over America . . . neither of which I got to see. The school sponsor wouldn’t let me go . . . I was needed. I have regretted missing that opportunity for over . . . well, more years than I want to count.
This past year, another of my music idols—Judy Collins, I had the opportunity to see in concert in the big city near us here in Montana. It was wonderful, and that was always the hope with Linda Ronstadt . . . that I would get to see her in concert before either one of us died. Oh well, I live well with regret . . .
The article I read stated that the diagnosis was devastating. In a brief statement on the AARP website, Linda Ronstadt announced that she could no longer sing due to discovering that she had Parkinson Disease. “I was completely shocked. I wouldn’t have suspected that in a million billion years,” she wrote. As a result, she said, she “can’t sing a note.” No matter how hard she would try . . . she could not sing a note. “No one can sing with Parkinson Disease,” she said, “No matter how hard you try.” Regret . . . my regret.
I have always been more inclined towards female singers than male. There just seems to be a more earthy, honest, and emotional quality to their singing. They seem to touch my heart more . . . and, Linda Ronstadt is one of the purest voices I ever heard no matter what the genre of music she sang. It was a voice that was pure and true . . . and, it did not matter whether she was singing songs written just for her or in the cover of some other famous artist . . . she was the voice. Plus, as a male adolescent, she was a pleasure to look at. A “man” crush.
No matter how hard you try . . . you cannot stop the passage of time. Time waits for no one. The theory of entropy is all things break down over time . . . all things. The body is not immune to this breakdown no matter how well one treats his or her body . . . it is a part of the journey of life. In T.H. White’s writing about the King Arthur legend he emphasizes this in Merlin the Magician. In the story he tells “Toad”, the child King Arthur, that he is reverting back to his childhood . . . that he is going back in time . . . going back in time the older he gets. The bottom line is simple . . . we all wear down . . . our bodies break down . . . we lose what we have had. Linda Ronstadt’s body has broken down . . . she can no longer sing. Regret . . .
It is funny the things that make us stop and pause in life . . . it should be things like the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech in Washington, D.C. that is about to be observed. It should be things like a massacre in some foreign land . . . a major weather related devastation, but in the end it seems that it is often more simpler than those crises or celebrations. Sometimes it is the news of one of our favorite singers—one of our “man” crushes—losing their voice due to time. The news of Linda Ronstadt’s health was one of those for me.
Good music rubs off on the soul. As my children grew up they were exposed to much of the music that the wife and I enjoyed . . . seemingly they had to endure the “old fogey” music. But, good music touches the heart no matter how “old” it might be . . . so it was for my daughter who grew up listening to her father play his eclectic music. It was at her wedding that she selected the solo to be one of my favorite Linda Ronstadt songs, Feels Like Home. It was not only officiating my daughter’s wedding that brought tears to my eyes, but the flood of memories of hearing that song echo throughout the sanctuary.
I join in the thousands, possibly millions, who express their best wishes and prayers that Linda Ronstadt is able to cope with Parkinson Disease . . . her voice—for now—now might be silence, but the echo of her legacy as a singer fills my heart. No matter how hard you try . . . she will always be a part of me. I wish I had had the guts to skip the school play . . .
Listen . . . . http://youtu.be/Yy22lxsjimU