Linda Ronstadt

On this date in 1946, singer Linda Maria Ronstadt was born in Tucson, Ariz., to Gilbert and Ruth Mary (Copeman) Ronstadt. The Ronstadts were a prosperous family with long ties to the area. Linda's parents were both musically inclined and, at age 14, she formed a folk trio with her brother Peter and sister Suzy. After a stint at the University of Arizona, she moved to Los Angeles and joined the Stone Poneys (biggest hit, "Different Drum"). Her first solo album came in 1969 and from there her career took off, with Cashbox naming her the top-selling female singer of the 1970s.

Her vocals ranged from contralto to soprano, and over the years her mastery of different musical genres was equally impressive. She has recorded 30 albums, received 11 Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. She was nominated for Tony and Golden Globe awards for her performance in "Pirates of Penzance." Diagnosed in 2011 with Parkinson's disease, she was forced to retire. “I can’t sing at all,” she told The New York Times in August 2013. "I’m truly not able. I can’t sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ really.”

Ronstadt has never married, although her relationship with California Gov. Jerry Brown in the late 1970s landed them on the cover of People magazine. She later dated comedian Jim Carrey and was engaged to "Star Wars" director George Lucas. "I'm very bad at compromise, and there's a lot of compromise in marriage," she told the Times. She adopted an infant girl, Mary Clementine, in 1990, when she was 44, and her son Carlos in 1994. Ronstadt's public support of liberal causes, including immigrants' rights, has led to praise and criticism. An early champion of gay rights and marriage equality, she told PlanetOut in August 2009 that "homophobia is anti-family values. Period, end of story."

She titled her 2013 autobiography Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir after her 1977 album "Simple Dreams." In the book she wrote: "I am not religious, but a rehearsal room can seem like a hallowed space; a place for transformation. A performer enters it at his peril." Asked about her religious beliefs on "The Tavis Smiley Show" (Sept. 26, 2013), she replied, "I'm a spiritual atheist."

PHOTO: Ronstadt in 1976; Dutch National Archives.

"Linda went to Catholic school, but it didn’t take. 'I was an atheist by third grade,' she told me, though there is a Haitian goddess she prays to, for President Obama."

—Lawrence Downes, New York Times interviewer, Dec. 27, 2013

Compiled by Bill Dunn

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