by John Delach
I first became acquainted with Linda Ronstadt’s music in 1978 due to a minor hiccup involving a new car. I had just taken delivery of my first company car, a navy-blue Chevrolet Caprice Classic four-door sedan. The model included super-extras like a power radio antenna, wire-wheel hub caps and a tape deck.
That Chevy turned out to be one of the best cars I ever had but the factory did get one thing wrong. Instead of having a tape player, my Caprice arrived with an Eight-Track player. (I suspect many of you have never heard of Eight-Track, so I ask that you look it up as it is too difficult and archaic to describe.)
Since we didn’t have an Eight-Track player at home, I asked my children, Beth (9) and Michael (7) to accompany me to Tower Records in the nearby Miracle Mile shopping center in Manhasset to pick out two Eight-Track tapes. They selected Simple Dreams and Heart Like a Wheel, and so began my love affair with Linda Ronstadt’s artistic ability.
I have already written about, Dedicated to the One I Love, and how Linda’s “lullaby album” gave me wonderful opportunities to gift that CD to women I knew when they announced they were pregnant for the first time.
My Ronstadt collection grew over the years, albums, tapes and finally CDs and culminated when my son-in-law, Tom, was able to secure her four-disc Box Set.
One morning, my colleague, Lisa, came into my office to tell me about the fabulous Linda Ronstadt concert she and her husband, Steve, attended the previous night at Radio City Music Hall. “John, she was amazing, it was a wonderful show. Linda belted out a sensational repertoire of her hits and her band and backup singers were fabulous.
“But the best part of the show was her encore. She came out alone onto an empty stage, just a baby grand piano, a single spotlight and Linda. She sat down and unaccompanied, Linda presented a thrilling and moving rendition of Desperado.”
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to see her in concert. From time to time, a friend or acquaintance fresh off a Ronstadt concert would seek me out knowing how big a fan I was. He or she raved about their experience. I waited for them to reach their climax and tell me about her encore. Rightly or wrongly, I chose to cut them off at the pass with, “I know she sang Desperado alone, just a baby grand, a single spotlight and Linda.”
Each time this happened I recognized that the person relating this experience was clearly moved by it. Still, I never found the occasion to pull the trigger and join these select fans who experienced a Linda Ronstadt concert.
How sad, when MS Ronstadt announced that she could no longer sing because of Parkinson’s disease and the realization of having to accept, her ship had sailed, or so it seemed.
Last summer, I needed an MRI and when the technician led me into the room, he said, “You’re in luck as you will be inside our newest machine that has Pandora. Who would you like to listen to?”
When I answered, “Linda Ronstadt,” he replied, “Can you spell Ronstadt.”
I tell you youth is wasted on the young!
As if by Divine intervention, a minor miracle. Recently, John Boylan, Linda’s management consultant tracked down the long missing master tapes of her 1980 HBO concert in LA. MS Ronstadt had never released a CD recorded live before. This time she agreed to release Linda Ronstadt, Live in Hollywood.
She selected 12 songs from the master including a 6:12 minute version of You’re No Good and, of course, her encore performance of Desperado. When I told Beth about this, she found it Spotify: “It’s such a good song. Reminds me of being in the back of the Caprice and listening to it on Eight-Track.”
For those of you who never saw Linda live in concert, I recommend that you find this rendition.
Picture if you will, one baby grand, one spotlight, one woman, no back-up singers, no strings, no horns and no orchestra; just Linda and the song she owns.