Interviewer: Now growing up in that house (in Tucson), you had a very, very good friend, who taught you a lot–

Linda Ronstadt: The radio.

(YouTube interview with Dan Guerrero, Northridge, CA Sept. 29, 2015)

One of the YouTube rabbit holes I go down most frequently is the “Linda Ronstadt Live” rabbit hole. She could be stiff, she could be sing-songy…or she could be electrifying. Sometimes all in the same song. What she never was, was anything less than professional or perfectionist. You’re guaranteed a certain quality, then…but you have to search for more.

So, with Greil Marcus’ long ago mention of being “knocked out” by a version of “Back in the U.S.A.” in front of a big audience (30,000) in Oakland, (he doesn’t mention the venue), wandering around in my head, I thought “Live in Concert Linda Ronstadt San Diego, CA” sounded intriguing.

The performance Marcus mentions isn’t available, alas. But you can probably bet some idea of what he heard by listening to (and, just as importantly, watching) this, where she finally gets all the way inside “Heat Wave”…

…in front of the whitest audience ever assembled in any venue that wasn’t featuring Bruce Springsteen or Lawrence Welk (can’t any of these people clap on the beat?)…and leaves the stage with the happiest look I’ve ever seen on her face in however many hundred hours I’ve spent down her rabbit hole.

It’s almost like she has discovered…something.

Maybe just that the chubby girl from the back row, who only got through high school by “keeping a record player going constantly in my mind”…a record player that no doubt received many recommendations from her friend the radio, could no longer disbelieve in her ability to hold a stadium (the size of which is more evident in the only other available video from that concert) in the palm of her hand…

..singing a song she never had the least trouble getting inside of.

2 thoughts on “SHY GIRL FINDS NEW SELF…IN UNLIKELIEST OF PLACES (Segue of the Day: 6/29/17)

  1. Absolutely: Linda is a specialist in making a song her own — almost irrevocably. Just ask anyone who was ever shocked to learn that “It’s So Easy” had originally been a Buddy Holly song, or that “When Will I Be Loved” had been an Everly Brothers number.

    You’ve offered a great live example that I’ve never heard. “Heat Wave” is, in any case, one of those “Is it possible for anyone not to like this?” songs, and to give Martha Reeves a run for her money is just as impossibly impressive as…well, giving Roy Orbison a run for his.

    (And as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles never had a better lead singer.)

  2. Great closing line! And I ain’t no Eagles hater either.

    I always liked Linda’s version of “Heat Wave” (though it was much derided…how dare she!) but it got better on stage, where she often used it for a closer. And that San Diego stadium is where she seemed to really “find” it. The look on her face at the end is priceless. That day, at least, she left the original in the dust.

    And one thing I always gave her credit for, even in the years before I started to gain any deep understanding of her music, was she certainly didn’t lack for guts: Elvis, Smokey Robinson, Roy O, The Everlys, Dolly Parton (often as not on their signature songs)…and then Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet et al. I don’t say she always succeeded, but who else (except for Elvis and Ray Charles) ever attempted such an array? Nobody in her generation, for sure.

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