EXCLUSIVE Linda Ronstadt has never seen “American Idol” or “The Voice.” “I don’t watch those kinds of shows,” she told me after a rare appearance Wednesday night at the 92nd St. Y. Her long time friend, former New York Times music critic John Rockwell, conducted an interview on stage, followed by questions from the audience — all adoring fans.
Afterwards, I asked Ronstadt, who’s incredibly knowledgeable about singing and music in general of all genres, not just pop, whether she’d consider being a judge or a mentor on one of those shows. After saying she’d never seen them, she added: “I don’t believe in competition in the arts. Competition is for horses, for horse racing. And even they don’t like it.”
Ronstadt is promoting her new memoir, “Simple Dreams,” which tells a lot about her music career and a little about her personal life. It’s a good read that sometimes invokes the name of her longest term well known boyfriend, California governor Jerry Brown.
Last night during the public Q&A, Ronstadt was a little more revealing about Brown while telling an anecdote about another singer, Rosemary Clooney, who’d invited Ronstadt to dinner. Brown asked if he could come along, and said they should bring something to Rosie’s house. He noticed that Ronstadt had received roses from someone, and decided to re-gift them to Clooney.
“Jerry Brown is really cheap,” Ronstadt said. “That’s one thing about him. He said, We can take these. I said, They’re mine! They had a card on them and everything. But we took them and we were laughing about it on the way over.”
Ronstadt looked pretty damn good for someone who’s recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. She said she might have had it for eight years or more without realizing it. And for the six months she waited for a real diagnosis, she pretended she didn’t have it. “It was like a Get out of Jail free card,” she said.
During the talk with Rockwell, she invoked names of singer friends who’d passed away, like Phoebe Snow and Nicolette Larson, and talked about singing with Emmylou Harris and not singing with Bonnie Raitt. She reminded me a lot of Doris Day, very private and shy, not particularly interested in revealing too much or taking much credit for the fine work she’s done. But a class act, all the way.
photo of Linda