Friday, March 25, 2022

Linda Ronstadt Became a Huge Star Almost Overnight in the 1970s


I had never heard of her and then suddenly she’s the queen of the pop charts — and with good reason.

An excellent singer with a rich, powerful voice steeped in multiple styles of music from a very young age, she made two excellent choices in 1973-4 that changed everything for her: a new manager and producer, Peter Asher, and an ace studio musician and arranger who played multiple instruments, Andrew Gold. 

Looking back I realize two things now about her music: 1) I actually like her ballads better than her rocked-up numbers because they showcase her amazing singing talent the best, and (2) because the biggest hits with the most radio airplay were the rocked-up numbers, I was a little lukewarm on her overall, back then.

Live and learn, grasshopper. Live and learn.

She formed the Stone Poneys at age 18 in 1964 with some musician friends — their biggest hit was “Different Drum” (written by Michael Nesmith of The Monkees) in 1967.

By 1969 she went solo but over the course of several albums over the next several years she struggled to find a consistent style and enough quality material — usually this points squarely at the manager and/or producer — but did make two solid singles that made a dent in the Country charts, “Long, Long Time” and “Silver Threads and Golden Needles”.

“Long, Long Time”, her first solo hit from 1969, a straight ahead country crooner similar to Patsy Cline.

“Silver Threads and Golden Needles” from a TV show around 1974 with The Eagles (her backing band for a bit around 1971).

The Eagles were on their own path to stardom, obviously. But those two solo tunes showed her potential — to make near-perfect pop/rock/country records, she just needed a top-tier manager and producer, and ace studio musicians.

Enter Peter Asher and Andrew Gold to completely transform her sound and quality of material. 

As a result lots of people liked it and bought millions of records, and by the next year she’s playing stadiums and arenas, the first female ever to do that. 

She also became the first female with five platinum albums in a row (1 million copies sold).

More on this next week.