I’m Not in Denial About the State of Things. . .

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The world kind of sucks right now.  My personal world hasn’t been a bed of roses lately, either.  (I’m assuming the phrase “bed of roses” refers to the soft petals and not the thorny bush.  And my choice of metaphors will make sense in a moment.)  I’m not denying any of it, and I’ll probably post something about it soon.  I just don’t want to be sad and angry right now.  Which is why I’m posting this song.

“Love is Rose” is a Neil Young song, but Linda Ronstadt owns it.  I’ve always preferred her version anyway.  Like Neil, his version of the song tends to be kind of prickly; his focus seems to be on the thorns and not the flowers.  “Love is a rose, but you better not pick it” seems to be sound advice as far as he’s concerned.  Fool around to your heart’s content, but don’t fall in love; it’ll only end in tears when you gash your hand open and bleed all over the place while screaming in pain.

In Ronstadt’s version, that line is also a warning but the emphasis is different.  Let’s do it.  Let’s fall in love, but don’t try to own me.  Don’t  imprison me in your world.  Let me grow and thrive in my own environment.  If you do try to cut me off from the things that made you want me in the first place, I will cut you.  Her version is more joyful somehow, more about the cooperation a relationship requires.  “Give me a lift, and I’ll hay your wagon” is mostly a metaphor for sex, but it’s also an idea about how two people can work together to make something good happen.

Since Neil Young wrote the words, the interpretation of the songs could be exactly the same.  But the slower pacing gives Young’s version a more cautious, unhappy feel.  Ronstadt’s delivery and choice of arrangement makes “Love is Rose” softer and more buoyant.  I know part of the reason I like her version better is because I heard it first.  But I also enjoy the carefree tone.  There’s an edge, but you aren’t going to hurt yourself too badly on it.  At least, you won’t as long as you give her a little breathing room, enough to drink, and lots of sunshine.

 

 

Linda Ronstadt

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Linda Ronstadt announced over the weekend that she has Parkinson’s Disease, and has lost her singing voice because of it.  I’m heartbroken.  Linda Ronstadt doesn’t get as much attention these days as a lot of the 70s SoCal artists because she didn’t generally writer her own songs, or play any instruments on stage.  She was just a singer, and a pretty one to boot.

Just a singer.

Linda Ronstadt is one of the great vocal stylists of her generation.  She could do rock, country, pop, big band, and just about anything else.  She chose the songs she sang, and made hits out of many songs that might’ve been otherwise forgotten.  She had the best musicians backing her up, and was responsible for launching quite a few careers.  I mean, you’ve heard of the Eagles, right?  They started out as Linda Ronstadt’s backup band.  To hear that she can no longer sing is something of a tragedy.  (It’s almost as awful to me as losing the great Julie Andrews’ voice because of a botched surgery.)

A lot of the attention she got from the press in the 70s and 80s was for who she dated, not her skills as a singer and performer.  (She always did have interesting taste in men, Jerry Brown and George Lucas among the most notable.)  But she continually reinvented herself as an artist.  When she tired of rock and pop, she collaborated with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra for a successful series of standards albums.  She joined friends Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris for the country collection Trio.  She even drew on her cultural and ethnic heritage, and sang traditional Mexican songs on Canciones de Mi Padre. Linda Ronstadt was never one to rest on her success.

Calling Linda Ronstadt just a singer does her, and all female vocalists of her caliber, a huge disservice.  Yeah, she was pretty and sexy (without ever being trashy, something a lot of women performers today should take a lesson from).  But her looks weren’t why she made it to the top of the charts so often.  You don’t have a career as long and varied as Linda Ronstadt’s without talent.