Linda Ronstadt told the AARP website she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease eight months ago, after beginning to show symptoms eight years ago. “No one can sing with Parkinson’s disease,” Ronstadt said. “No matter how hard you try.” The 67-year-old who is one of the top-selling recording artists ever walks with the aid of poles on uneven ground, and uses a wheelchair when she travels, according to the interview with AARP music writer Alanna Nash. The full interview goes out next week, but there is a story about it on the group's website.
“I couldn’t sing,” she told Nash, “and I couldn’t figure out why. I knew it was mechanical. I knew it had to do with the muscles, but I thought it might have also had something to do with the tick disease that I had. And it didn’t occur to me to go to a neurologist. I think I’ve had it for seven or eight years already, because of the symptoms that I’ve had. Then I had a shoulder operation, so I thought that’s why my hands were trembling.
“Parkinson’s is very hard to diagnose, so when I finally went to a neurologist and he said, ‘Oh, you have Parkinson’s disease,’ I was completely shocked. I wouldn’t have suspected that in a million, billion years."
Ronstadt, the winner of 11 Grammy awards, has recently raised her children in Northern California but is a historic figure in the modern Los Angeles music scene — from the Stone Poneys and the Troubadour in the 1960s and 70s to her mariachi records with Nati Cano when he was the resident maestro at La Fonda.
Her new memoir, "Simple Dreams," will appear on September 17 but does not address the Parkinson's diagnosis, says AARP.
Ronstadt singing the national anthem in the 1977 World Series at Dodger Stadium:
Next day updates:
This news has certainly swept the culture and hit a lot of people hard. Ronstadt herself answered questions for about an hour in March at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and sounds like she is in a good place. The interview is basically an oral history of the LA music scene in the late 1960s and 1970s and of her wide-ranging work since. She laughs that when some promoter back then sent her folk-rock band out on the road with The Doors it was a like a strange double bill pairing "Bambi" with "Deep Throat." She still speaks regularly with Jerry Brown, by the way. Listen
This post has received the fastest spread across Facebook of anything I can recall posting. On my Facebook page, a lot of people are expressing their sadness and their appreciation of Linda Ronstadt's talents and accomplishments. Their posting of favorite Ronstadt songs from YouTube is curating her work better than I could. Here's what they are choosing:
From John Stodder, "Faithless Love" live at the Fox Theater in Atlanta: "Very sad. I've been listening to her a lot lately. What a great voice, and she had magnificent taste in songs."
From Peggy Kelly, "What's New" with the Nelson Riddle orchestra: "Wonderful artist."
From Steve Timberlake, "Desperado" again with Nelson Riddle: "I own nearly every album she's ever recorded."
From Scott McAuley, "Tracks of My Tears:"
I posted "La Charreada," introduced by Billy Crystal in 1989: "Everything she does is a classic."
On coming from Tucson and singing in Spanish:
Also: A clip from the American Masters film "Troubadours" in which Bonnie Raitt, J.D. Souther and others pay tribute to Ronstadt: "She probably had more to do with the spawning of country rock than anybody in the world." Watch
Plus back to the beginning with the Stone Poneys (disregard the misspelling in the video.)
Hat tip to Boom magazine on Twitter: Linda sings Jimmy Webb's "Adios:"