Linda Ronstadt: Tucson’s “Girl Singer”

This page is from the book, “Entertaining Tucson Across the Decades,” in volume one of a three volume set available on

2nd: Linda Ronstadt and Daniel Valdez. Photo by Bob Blakeman, 1987, Asylum Records.

Linda Ronstadt: Tucson’s “Girl Singer”
By Sharon S. Magee
September 1990 – Entertainment Magazine

Linda Ronstadt is coming home, and in more ways than one. She will appear in concert at the Tucson Convention Center on September 27th (1990) with Aaron Neville, her singing partner on four cuts of her new hit album, “Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind.” Besides this physical homecoming, the critics are hailing this new album as her musical homecoming, a return to what she does best, pop rock.

After forays into swing (“What’s New,” “Lush Life,” and “For sentimental Reasons” with the late arranger-conductor Nelson Riddle), country (“Trio” with long-time buddies, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris) mariachi (“Canciones de Mi Padre” with master arranger, Ruben Fuentes), and light opera (Joseph Papp’s productions of “La Boheme” and “Pirates of Penzance,”) this return seems to be welcomed by critics and fans alike. As Ralph Novak succinctly states in his review in the October 23, 1989 People Magazine, “ … it never seems like a retreat: it seems instead like a homecoming.”

With rave reviews swirling around her, it should indeed be a triumphant homecoming for this “girl singer” (her words), born in Tucson in 1946 to Gilbert and Ruthmary Ronstadt. Growing up in the age of rock and roll with brothers Mike and Pete and sister Suzi, she was surrounded by music. But rather than rock and roll it was country, and to an even greater extent, the music of her father’s Mexican heritage. Lola Beltrln, the queen of mariachi, became her idol.

She recalls with fondness singing Mexican songs with her father and being allowed to stay up late into the night listening to the sweet melodies from the frequent informal family songfests. In fact, as late as 1967 when she was well on her way to rock stardom, her Mexican roots tugged and she proclaimed that she aspired to nothing less than being the world’s greatest Mexican singer.

As she reached her teen years, rock and roll still did not figure in her plans. Determined to be a folk singer in the vein of Joan Baez or Mary Travers, at age 14 she began to sing folk music on Tucson TV with the New Union Ramblers trio comprised of Linda and siblings Pete and Suzi. It wasn’t until she heard the Byrds and realized their harmonies were simply bluegrass put to a “groovy beat” that she decided to try rock and roll.

At 18 she left Tucson at the urging of her friend, Bob Kimmel, to try her luck in Los Angeles, and the rest is history. Hit has followed upon hit.

That family is important to her may explain why she has experimented with different singing styles. While some critics blame her seemingly dartboard choice of style on ego or immaturity, a lot of it apparently goes back to family.
Her Mexican-born grandfather staged “The Pirates of Penzance” in 1896 in his Tucson Club Filharmonico. Her show business aunt, Luisa (Ronstadt) Espinel, produced a book of songs in 1946 called “Canciones de Mi Padre” and toured with the show very much as Linda did with her “Canciones” tour. Her early rock and roll she chalks up simply to defiance but the songs with Nelson Riddle she says are based on her mother’s Dutch personality, straightforward with no artifice.

Whatever the reason, it must be assumed that it took a lot of courage, or maybe self-confidence, for a successful rock singer to go against the advice of her advisers and strike out on these musical side trips. Or maybe it was just Linda wanting to do something she truly enjoyed.

Case in point, her “Trio” album with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. While these three friends have from
time to time performed backup on each others albums, their desire to do an album together took a long time a- birthin’ but was a labor of love. Linda says this is the one album she can listen to without being embarrassed or bothered as she is when listening to her other albums. In a recent interview she said about “Trio,” “I just love it. I’m real proud of it. It’s the one I can listen to without getting real uncomfortable, even a little bit, you know? I just go, ‘Wow, I’m on that record, and I’m so glad.”

For those of us that remember the “pre-Riddle” Ronstadt, we can only hope that when she performs in Tucson, that in addition to the wonderful soaring songs from “Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind,” we’ll get to hear some of the “oldies-but-goodies” such as her emotion-packed renditions of “Blue Bayou” and “I Can’t Help It If I’m still In Love With You.”

Welcome home, Linda.

This page is from the book, “Entertaining Tucson Across the Decades,” in volume one of a three volume set available on

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