In a touching, funny and inspirational conversation with CBS Sunday Morning’s Tracy Smith, Linda Ronstadt opened up about her battle with Parkinson’s, the disease that robbed fans of Ronstadt’s remarkable singing voice.
From the classic rock hits “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave” and “You’re No Good,” to the acoustic country of “Telling Me Lies” and “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” performed with her Trio partners Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, Ronstadt’s range as an interpreter and vocal powerhouse earned her membership in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
Now 72, with streaks of purple in her light brown hair, Ronstadt revealed that although she can no longer physically sing the songs for which she is well-known, she does have one way to hear herself perform them (it’s not on her million-selling records — she never listens to those).
“I can sing in my brain,” she says. “I sing in my brain all the time. It’s not quite the same as doing it physically. There’s a physical feeling in singing that’s just like skiing down a hill. Except better, because I’m not a very good skier.”
Although Ronstadt’s humor shines through in the interview, there’s also the poignant revelation that by 2009 she retired from singing because, by that time, what she heard herself doing mostly onstage was “yelling” as her voice faltered.
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These days, Ronstadt spends much of her time at home reading, a pursuit that has deepened her interest in political affairs. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Ronstadt endorsed Michael Lewis’ bestseller The Fifth Risk. “It’s a great little civics lesson, to start with. It’s a real education in how the Cabinet works and what happens when it does its function, which it’s not doing now,” she said. “The ‘fifth risk’ is incompetence. For instance, the Secretary of Energy was a nuclear scientist, and Trump put in somebody who wasn’t even interested in the reports they prepared to hand over to the new administration. They didn’t even come in for a briefing. The Department of Energy, which I didn’t know before, takes care of all the nuclear weapons. Our nuclear arsenal is in the hands of the Department of Energy.”
Ronstadt’s first-ever live album, Live in Hollywood, taped for a 1980 HBO special, was issued last week. The LP collects 12 of the 20 songs performed in the special, many of which have been unreleased in any form until now.