Thursday, November 07, 2013

Criminal. Positively Criminal.

Category:  Rant

I normally don't deal with rock and roll here in the country blog, but I'm making an exception for two reasons.  First, there is a strong country music connection in this instance.  Second, this is such a criminal action that it demands a scream.

In late October the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its nominees for the "class of 2014."  Among the nominations was Linda Ronstadt.  If there were a musical courtroom the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be sentenced to life for this crime against musical humanity.

The main reason Linda Ronstadt received her first nomination this year, 21 years after she was first eligible to be nominated, is the main reason I'm furious.  In July the 67-year-old singer announced that she has Parkinson's Disease, resulting in her being unable to sing any longer.  So, in essence, this nomination is basically a pity party.  

Criminal.  Positively criminal.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee should be ashamed of itself.

Ronstadt was rock's #1 female artist in the 1970's.  Nobody was close to her.  In fact, you're probably hard-pressed to name another successful female rock singer in the 1970's:  Bonnie Raitt and Tina Turner were years away from becoming household names, and Heart (led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson) only started in the late 70's and didn't hit their stride until the 80's.  The other major female acts in the 1970's were pop (such as Barbra Streisand), disco (Donna Summer) or R&B (Diana Ross).  Rock had but one major female voice, and it belonged to Linda Ronstadt.

Ronstadt, however, was never limited to just rock.  Her music tastes are quite diverse, and she reflected this in the songs she sang.  Her 1974 masterpiece Heart Like a Wheel successfully walked a line between rock and country, with her covers of "You're No Good" and "When Will I Be Loved" balanced against "I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You" and "Faithless Love."  Her list of country hits date to that year, when her version of "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" made the Billboard country top 20.  Ronstadt won three country Grammy awards, including two for her collaboration with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris in the Trio projects.   

She repeatedly walked that fine line throughout much of her career -- not always successfully (her cover of the Rolling Stones' "Tumbling Dice" is almost comical, and not in a good way)  -- but you could always count on Linda Ronstadt to knock you out with that voice of hers that Parton once labeled as one of only three "real" female voices in the world (the other two, according to Parton, belonging to Streisand and Connie Smith:  "the rest of us are just pretenders").  Now Parkinson's Disease has silenced that marvelous voice.  So, much like a sympathy vote (no doubt how Donna Summer gathered enough votes for a posthumous induction last year), Ronstadt has now received the first nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in her life; and, as I predicted in my rock blog (and will reiterate here) I would bet the ranch if I owned one that she will be inducted.

Linda Ronstadt's music has enriched the lives of fans of country, rock, pop (check out her albums recorded with Nelson Riddle), Mexican Mariachi music, and Broadway.  She should have been inducted years ago, when she could have entertained the audience with her marvelous voice.

I would love nothing more than for God to grant her one last curtain call, so she could sing a farewell to her three generations of fans and, as a friend of mine put it, sing the rafters off the building in a middle-finger response of sorts to being overlooked for so long.  

Linda Ronstadt with Emmylou Harris (and Ricky Skaggs on guitar) 
performing "Gold Watch and Chain" in a tribute to Mother Maybelle 
Carter in 1979

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen! Linda Ronstadt's voice was the most gorgeous instrument of the rock era. She brought hard rockin' audiences to country and country fans to a different musical vocabulary. The big four - Janis, Barbra, Aretha, and Patsy have nothing vocally on Linda Ronstadt. To hear her live was to have your breath and heart taken by a voice that for all her popularity has never been fully appreciated as the finest set of female pipes to deliver a melody. Her choices were remarkably eclectic and her humility all too rare. She doesn't want or need some silly institution's pity but the strange and deliberate
blackballing of Linda all these years is a travesty. Hoping to see her inducted however and celebrate the clearest, purest songbird on the face of the planet.