On July 15, 1946, the world was first graced with the presence of one of the greatest female vocalists of the 20th century: Linda Ronstadt. To commemorate the occasion, we’ve pulled together a dozen of Linda’s best-loved tracks to remind you what an international treasure she was, is, and always will be.
The Stone Poneys, “Different Drum” (from Evergreen, Vol. 2, 1967): Penned by Michael Nesmith, best known then and now as a member of The Monkees, this was the song that first served to put Ronstadt on the map, even if - as you can see from the credit - it was recorded while she was still a member of the Stone Poneys. Within a few years, however, she would be on her own and watching her star rise as a solo artist.
“Desperado” (from Don't Cry Now, 1973): Yes, it’s the Eagles song, but even Don Henley himself has acknowledged that the band’s version of the song pretty much flew under the radar until Ronstadt’s cover made serious commercial waves.
“You’re No Good” (from Heart Like a Wheel, 1974): Written by Clint Ballard, Jr., this track was first released in 1963 by Dee Dee Warwick - yep, Dionne’s sister! - with production by Leiber and Stoller, no less, after which both Betty Everett and the Swinging Blue Jeans scored a chart hit with the song. Only Ronstadt, however, took the track to No. 1 on the Hot 100.
“When Will I Be Loved” (from Heart Like a Wheel, 1974): Penned by Phil Everly, he and his brother Don took this song into the Top 10 in 1960, but once again it was Ronstadt who ended up with the bigger hit, landing all the way at No. 2.
“Tracks of My Tears” (from Prisoner in Disguise, 1975): Even this song will always be known first and foremost as a Smokey Robinson tune; it may surprise you that even though Ronstadt’s version only made it to No. 25, Smokey’s version didn’t even crack the Top 10 of the Hot 100. (Yes, it was a No. 2 R&B hit, but it only made it to No. 16 on the pop charts.)
“That’ll Be the Day” (from Hasten Down the Wind, 1976): Ronstadt’s version of this Buddy Holly classic made it to No. 11 in the U.S., but it was an even bigger hit in Canada, where it made it all the way to No. 2.
“Blue Bayou” (from Simple Dreams, 1977): Even though it’s retroactively considered to be one of Roy Orbison’s most iconic songs, this tune just barely cracked the top 30, its ascent stopping at No. 29. Ronstadt, on the other hand, took it to No. 3...and at this point, we should probably take a moment to observe that, no matter what you may think of Ronstadt’s interpretations of these iconic songs, her decision to do versions of them was immeasurably important in bringing them to new generations of listeners.
“Just One Look” (from Living in the U.S.A., 1978): Written by Gregory Carroll and Doris Payne, this song was first made into a hit by Doris Troy, but in addition to Ronstadt’s version, it’s also been notably covered by The Hollies and Anne Murray.
“Hurt So Bad” (from Mad Love, 1980): Penned by Teddy Randazzo, Bobby Weinstein, and Bobby Hart, this was a Top 10 hit in ’65 for Little Anthony and The Imperials, and then it was a Top 20 hit for the Lettermen in ’69, but Ronstadt took it back into the top 10 again with her version, which - at No. 8 - proved to be the highest-charting version of the bunch.
“I Love You for Sentimental Reasons” (For Sentimental Reasons, 1986): During the ‘80s, Ronstadt recorded three albums with arranger/bandleader Nelson Riddle, all of which shifted platinum units, but this track, which hails from the third of those LPs, is the song that’s gotten the most airplay over the years.
“Wildflowers” (feat. Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris) (from Trio, 1987): Ronstadt, Parton, and Harris later recorded a sequel to this album, and it’s pretty solid in its own right, but it’s this first outing for the threesome that’s the “if you can own only one” album between them.
“Don’t Know Much” (feat. Aaron Neville) (from Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind, 1989): We close with a song that’s still getting airplay lo these many years later, with the intermingling of these two amazing voices creating one of the great pop duets of the 20th century...not to oversell it or anything. (It really is great, though.)