Versatility has been the name of the game for Tucson, Arizona-born vocalist Linda Ronstadt. Over a 40-plus year career, she has crafted over 25 studio albums with genres ranging from folk to jazz, big band to Cajun, country to rock 'n' roll. And while she has experimented with seemingly endless styles, her passion, powerful voice, and creativity has kept her relevant and a commercial successful throughout all of her changes.
Rondstadt's career began all the way back in the mid-'60s. Her first disc was the 1967 release with a group called the Stone Poneys, named, fittingly, Stone Poneys. She would release two more albums with the folk-rock group before she went solo in 1969. Her first solo album was called Hand Sown…Home Grown, and though it sold poorly, it signaled her first musical shift, veering away from folk to a more country-rock sound. After a few more moderately successful albums, Ronstadt released her seminal 1974 smash-hit Heart Like A Wheel. The record was the singer's most radio-friendly release, which translated into huge success, shooting her to the top of Billboard's Album Chart. The record featured cuts written by artists like James Taylor, Paul Anka, and Hank Williams, and its biggest hit, "You're No Good," was a re-working of an old Dee Dee Warwick song.
From there, Ronstadt became an international sensation, releasing successful follow-ups with Simple Dreams and Living In The U.S.A. in '77 and '78 and selling out arenas all over the world. She became known to many as, not only a sex symbol, but the most popular female rock singer of the era. In 1980, Ronstadt started branching out by releasing a new wave inspired album entitled Mad Love. Though it was a major departure from the slick, country-rock that her fans were accustomed to, it still did well, selling over one million copies. She repeated the trick on 1983's What's New, where she performed jazzy classics by composers like George Gershwin, Bing Crosby, and Irvin Berlin. Once again, it was a success, staying in the Billboard Top 200 for 81 weeks. After three more jazz releases, she moved on to Latin and Mexican music with 1987's Canciones de Mi Padre, a tribute to the music of her father, who was Mexican-American. This record identified her with the huge Chicano population of the U.S. and sold easily over two million copies in the states alone.
She has continued to experiment with different genres, and her 2006 collaboration with Ann Savoy, the Cajun-influenced Adieu False Heart, drew her rave reviews and was a cult favorite. While her sales may not be what they once were, the legendary Ronstadt continues to captivate audiences with her albums and performances. She is also an outspoken advocate for human rights, the environment, and the arts.