This is the season of artists’ autobiographies. Just in time for Christmas we’ve seen books by and about Graham Nash, Donald Fagen, The Kinks’ Ray Davies and more. But by far, whatever pleasures are inherent in the rest, the sweetest, most poetic reminiscence has to be Linda Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams. Isn’t that the way it should be? She doesn’t pull the rug out from underneath anyone, she doesn‘t confess to a lifetime as a heroin addict, or give us any startling revelations about her sex life, but her fine crisp prose tells us just enough details of her climb to the top (and devotion to her craft) to keep us loving the girl singer we grew up with. That’s right, grew up with.
Those of us of a certain age remember the barefoot girl sitting in the dirt with the hogs on Silk Purse, and the sexpot in the red camisole on the front of Rolling Stone magazine. Aah, how that strap slipped off the shoulder! We remember the albums fondly, and the powerful voice held captive in that delicate frame. How could she sing with such gusto? The bands backing her were always fine, one became The Eagles. Her song choices were flawless, and the production by Peter Asher captured the essence of those songs, and still left room for Linda to shine even when the guitar parts were as memorable as on “You’re No Good.” Linda introduced us to a whole generation of songwriters. Warren Zevon, JD Souther, Jackson Browne among others; but she was also on the cusp of the New Wave melding it with her California-rock ethos on an album called Mad Love. Perhaps it wasn’t the grittiest approach to new wave rock, but I assure you it led many listeners (who hadn't gone there yet) to try out Elvis Costello.