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SIMPLE DREAMS by Linda Ronstadt


A Musical Memoir

By Linda Ronstadt

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6872-8
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A personable and engagingly written memoir, though reticent and short on personal revelation.

The subtitle reinforces the focus, but even readers who don’t want to wallow in gossip might be expecting more than, “I was keeping company with then-governor Jerry Brown” and, “I was keeping steady company with journalist Pete Hamill,” without any context about how these and other relationships began or developed. The epilogue begins, “I live these days with my two children,” which is the first mention of them. Yet for those content with an illumination of the artist’s musical eclecticism, and what music means to her, the book is informative and heartfelt. It suggests (without the singer ever belaboring the point) that Ronstadt deserves more credit than she often receives for popularizing country rock, for taking the then-daring but now commonplace initiative to interpret the pre-rock Great American Songbook, to follow her instincts wherever they might lead her, from The Pirates of Penzance to traditional Mexican mariachi. “I never felt that rock and roll defined me,” she writes. “There was an unyielding attitude that came with the music that involved being confrontational, dismissive, and aggressive—or, as my mother would say, ungracious.” She also explains, “I felt some stagnation setting in, and the relentless touring and endless repetition of the same songs over and over again promoted a creeping awareness that my music had begun to sound like my washing machine….I was beginning to feel miserable. And trapped.” So she made choices that others considered unwise, or at least noncommercial, and reaped all sorts of rewards.

Whatever’s missing (including more context of how popular music was changing while her own music was changing), what’s here is consistently interesting.