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Linda Ronstadt: 1946—: Singer

Released Gold And Platinum Albums

Ronstadt's future began to take shape in 1973, when she signed with Asylum Records. She enlisted the services of producer Peter Asher, formerly of the British pop duo Peter and Gordon, who helped Ronstadt complete her next album, Don't Cry Now. Released in 1973, it became Ronstadt's first widely accepted album, and reached number 45 on the charts. The best-received cut was her highly acclaimed rendition of the Eagle's "Desperado." The success prompted Capitol to release a compilation of Ronstadt's earlier work, including several Stone Poneys' songs, a year later.

In 1973 Ronstadt found out she still owed Capitol another album. She completed her contractual obligation to Capitol in 1974 with the release of Heart Like a Wheel, which became her breakthrough album. With Asher as her sole producer and manager, Ronstadt put together a superb collection of country-rock cover tunes and contemporary songs that took the album, which went platinum, to number one on the charts. The singles "You're No Good" reached number one on the pop charts, and "I Can't Help It If I'm Still in Love with You," with harmony by Emmylou Harris, climbed to number two on the country and western charts. "When Will I Be Loved" reached number one on the country and western charts and number two on the pop charts. Riding on the popularity of Heart Like a Wheel, Ronstadt won a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocalist. The success of the album made Ronstadt a household name, and seemed due to a combination of factors, including stronger, more assertive singing, and better song selection, musical arrangements, and production.

Of Heart Like a Wheel, Stephen Holden wrote in his Rolling Stone review: "The song lyric … underscores the essence of Ronstadt's vocal personality. No other pop singer so perfectly embodies the Western mythical girl/woman, heartbroken yet resilient and entirely feminine in the traditional sense. There is a throbbing edge to Ronstadt's honey-colored soprano that no other singer quite possesses. … the edge between vulnerability and willfulness that I find totally, irresistibly sexy."

Riding the wave of her widespread popularity, Ronstadt put out Prisoner in Disguise in 1975, which also went platinum. Covering Motown classics such as "Heat Wave" and "Tracks of My Tears," she also sang Neil Young's "Love is a Rose," which became a hit on the country and western charts. Despite its success, however, the album was criticized as merely a remake of Heart Like a Wheel. In 1976 Asylum released Ronstadt's Greatest Hits, Vol.1. Ronstadt's Hasten Down the Wind was her seventh solo album and the third to go platinum. Highlights of the album included covers of Buddy Holly's hit "That'll Be the Day" and Willie Nelson's "Crazy."

Ronstadt spent six months in 1976 touring around the United States as well as Europe. In January of 1977 she was invited to sing at Jimmy Carter's presidential inaugural. During that year Capitol released Retrospective, a selection of Ronstadt's pre-hit country-based songs. By the end of the year, she had released Simple Dreams, which sold over three million copies, reached number one on the charts, and produced multiple smash-hit singles. Ronstadt, who continued to benefit from Asher's production skills, proved her ability to cover a wide range of styles, with renditions of Dolly Parton's "I Will Never Marry," Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou," and Buddy Holly's "It's So Easy." Her feminine interpretation of the gritty, male-dominated lyrics of the Rolling Stones' "Tumblin' Dice" and Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" were also noteworthy. In a testament to her willingness to play on the edge of acceptable genres, Ronstadt also included an old standard cowboy tune, "Old Paint," performed with simple acoustic guitar and a dobro.

Living in the U.S.A., released in 1978, received mixed reviews. Individual cuts were praised, but overall the album suffered from a lack of focus and direction. The following year Ronstadt produced Mad Love, an ill-advised attempt to incorporate contemporary tunes. Given her past success covering classics from a number of genres, Ronstadt's move to take on a production dominated by new wave and punk-influenced pop was a disappointment. Stereo Review's Noel Coppage suggested, "To put it in easy pop terms, Ronstadt's a melody singer and what this music needs is a beat singer." Of most interest on the album were the covers of older tunes, including Little Anthony and the Imperials' "Hurt so Bad" and The Hollies' "I Can't Let Go." Despite the critics' lukewarm reception of Living in the U.S.A. and Mad Love, Ronstadt's superstar status propelled both albums to platinum.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyLinda Ronstadt: 1946—: Singer Biography - Began Performing With Family, Abandoned By Group, Began Solo Career, Released Gold And Platinum Albums