Sometimes it’s best to leave old images alone

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

Coming to age in the 1970s had a lot of benefits, including listening to some excellent rock ‘n’ roll.
I was watching news reports of Woodstock in the summer of 1969 because I was 13 at the time and had no way to make my way over there. I ate up sports and music like it was candy. If I had devoted as much time to studying as I did to those things, I’d be a rocket scientist right now.

But so be it, I have to settle on being a writer. One singer who was and still is one of my favorites is Linda Ronstadt.

She was a sassy rocker with a great voice. She came off as the girl next door who had a lot of fun doing what she enjoyed, and she was very good at it.

I was listening to a bunch of her songs on YouTube the other day when I came across an interview she did during her book tour a few years ago. By that time, she had retired from performing and looked a lot different from the Linda belting out all those songs on the old videos.

But to be fair, we all change with time, except for Mick Jagger. Many years had passed since the release of Ronstadt’s first album in 1967, when she was with the Stone Poneys group. The group is only known for its hit “Different Drum.” It was a big single with a good beat. Her voice is fantastic. Shortly after that, the Poneys went galloping their separate ways, and Ronstadt went solo.

I started looking for her book on eBay. Some copies were selling for around $12. One autographed copy was selling for $169. I wasn’t going to buy that one. Then I found, way down the list, a used copy for $3.95, including shipping.

What a deal.Maybe the seller missed all those hits, like “ You’re No Good,” and “Back in the U.S.A.” I put in my order.

A few days later the book arrived, and I dove right into it, hoping to find out what went into this incredible career, the family ties, the perseverance, the downfalls, the drama, the blood, sweat and tears.
That’s how thes type of books are written, right? To let us know more about the individual than what is released by some publicity agent.

I’m no Ron Rozelle (read his column also because it’s always good) when it comes to evaluating books and creating descriptive prose, but I have been in the writing business for a while and can tell what works and what doesn’t.

The first few pages are about growing up in Arizona, and then young Linda goes to seek out her career as a singer. That’s when the book turns into a list of who’s who and a long rundown of inside business anecdotes that are probably interesting to those inside the business.

The Ronstadt family disappeared, and I continued reading tons of names of people, many of whom I don’t know and could not keep track of, except for California Gov. Jerry Brown, Linda’s boyfriend for a while. He kind of stood out from the pack.

Ronstadt barely recounts her mother’s death and ties it to her business. She passingly mentions that she has two sons, but we don’t know from where or how or with whom. This was not the story I expected, but so be it. It only cost $3.95, including shipping.

That happy, energetic woman image started shattering. Linda was all into the singing business, and everything else was a distant second, or at least, that’s how it appears in the book.

The image of a gray, lonely, empty private life started taking shape in my head.

“Linda Ronstadt has written a book that is as rich and full-bodied as her voice,” states the promo on the back sleeve, right above the $26.00 original price tag.

Well, her voice is that, for sure. But her book was disappointing. She said in the interviews that it is not a kiss-and-tell book, but it still could have opened a window into the mind of a superstar to allow us to see how she climbed to the top of this very competitive business.

I finished the book feeling somewhat sorry for her. Maybe it was just bad writing and editing. Or maybe, that’s all there was. Behind all those awards and glamor, perhaps there was a lonely person asking, “when will I be loved?”