- SEPTEMBER 10, 2003
in cream’: Linda Ronstadt comes to Wharton
winner Linda Ronstadt, whose career spans five decades and whose music
ranges from folk, rock, country and Latin to the American Songbook,
will perform two shows with the MSU Orchestra this weekend at the Wharton
Center. Ronstadt was interviewed on “City Pulse on Exposure”
(a weekly program on WDBM-FM, 88.9, Wednesdays at 7 p.m.) by co-hosts
Berl Schwartz and Meegan Holland. She will perform American standards.
Here are excerpts.
Berl: You’re coming here to perform with the MSU Orchestra. …
Linda: My mother’s from Michigan. She was born in Flint, and they
had an experimental dairy farm out in Metamora. My grandfather invented
the electric stove, and he invented the rubber ice tray and the pneumatic
grease gun and the electric milking machine.
Ronstadt and the MSU Orchestra
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 12 and 13, at the Wharton
Center. $30.50 to $50.
Meegan: So, what happen to you?
Linda: I invent things around the house.
Berl: Your album “What’s New” brought me out of the
closet, musically speaking. (People who listen to this show regularly
know I also came out of the closet in another way.) I’m a baby
boomer who grew up in the ’50s. When everyone else was listening
to Elvis and later the Beatles, I was listening to Sinatra and Nat King
Cole and Johnny Mathis. …
Linda: So was I.
Berl: … and then in the ’80s you came along and you did
some of the classic songs from the ’20, ’30 and ’40s,
so I want to thank you for that. What inspired you?
Linda: I remember when that first Bob Dylan record came out –
“The Freewheeling Bob Dylan” was I think the first one I
heard – and my boyfriend at the time had that record and he also
got the Frank Sinatra record “Only the Lonely,” and those
were the two records we were listening to kind of back to back for weeks,
and then I got a different boyfriend when I moved to L.A. and he also
loved that the Sinatra record, and so that became a real special thing
we listened to. I just memorized those Nelson Riddle charts. I loved
him so much. I really wanted to sing those songs. When I moved to Los
Angeles to live I was 17 years old, it was 1965, and there was just
no support for that, you know you might as well just try to fly to the
moon. Everybody just wanted rock ‘n’ roll. I was doing folk
music, and you could barely make a living doing a folk music. I liked
rock n roll, I was interested in it, you know I learned that also, starting
from 1955, but I really loved the standards, they were wonderful, highly
literate, sophisticated, urbane, beautifully crafted pieces of material,
and I wanted to sing them. I just kind of tucked them away. But later
when I went to New York to sing operettas because I was desparately
trying to get away from the kinds of performing I had to do in rock
‘n’ roll, where we had to play in the big hockey stadiums,
I didn’t consider those musical environments. They were very lucrative,
but they weren’t good places for music. You go into those hockey
arenas and you’d still be hearing the band echoing….
Berl: I remember seeing you at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
Linda: Yeah, the Spectrum is the best example. That is the ringiest,
most unmusical place, and we used to come out there with our ears screaming
and just going, “Was that music? I couldn’t tell? Was that
good for you. It wasn’t good for me.” We’d come out
of there thoroughly confused. And the audience—I don’t know
what their experience was. I used to feel bad for them because they
got charged money.
I did “Pirates of Penzance,” and when I was there I was
having a conversation with Jerry Wexler, a famed, wonderful legendary
record producer, who did Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, etc., etc.,
and I was talking to him about how I loved standards and how I wanted
to learn them. The next thing I knew we were sort of making a record,
but as we started to make a record with a small jazz group I realized
what I really wanted to do was make a record with Nelson Riddle and
his orchestrations, I didn’t know whether he was alive. I called
him up, and he was alive, and no he hadn’t particularly heard
of me. He had to ask one of his kids who I was and if they thought he
should be working with me. And fortunately I guess his kids liked me,
so I asked him very tentatively if he’d make a record, if he’d
just do a couple of songs, and he said very dryly that he didn’t
do songs, he did albums. I said, ‘Great, let’s make a record!’
The next thing I knew we were in the studio with a full orchestra and
I was learning the songs literally on the date because I don’t
play piano so I couldn’t rehearse at home and you can’t
rehearse with an orchestra because an orchestra is too expensive to
hire for weeks of rehearsal. So I stepped into the studio and opened
my mouth and in some cases, like “What’s New,” (the
first song on the album) – I think we did three takes, and we
used the first take, so the first time I sang it through was what you
hear on the album.
Meegan: Can you tell us some of things we can expect to hear at the
Linda: I am singing songs by George Gershwin and Irving Berlin and Cole
Porter. It’s great to give these kids (in the MSU Orchestra) a
chance to play these wonderful charts. Nobody wrote like Nelson Riddle,
nobody has before and nobody has since. He was simply the best there
was, and he put jazz into the orchestra without compromising either
Meegan: It’s amazing to me, we’ve talked a lot about jazz,
but you’ve won Grammy awards in rock and poop and country and
Latin music, and the Latin Grammies are tonight. I’m curious –
what do you think of the fact that of the Latin Grammies being separated
out strictly for Latin music?
Linda: I don’t pay very much attention to shows that give prizes.
I’m always very happy to be acknowledged for my work, but I never
did it to win prizes. I’m sorry there’s such an attitude
toward the Cubans among the Miami Cubans. I think their attitude is
immature and intolerant and kind of fascist.
Meegan: Explain that attitude to me.
Linda: Gloria Estefan’s husband was saying if any of these (Cuban)
acts come on, I’m going to walk out, and I just thought, God,
have some respect for talent. There’s wonderfully talented people
… jazz is especially alive and well in Cuba. It’s an amazing
country. I’ve been all over Latin America. And it’s the
only Latin American country I’ve been in that didn’t have
armed troops on the street, there weren’t homeless people everywhere,
and kids had school uniforms and had schoolbooks paid for and had their
health paid for. There’s things going on in Cuba that we don’t
know about, and that’s mainly because of the Miami Cubans, they
just absolutely won’t – they are absolutely closed-minded.
They hate Fidel Castro, they won’t even hear about some of the
good things he’s done, and they don’t want anyone else to
know about it, either. It’s a total propaganda device and they’ve
blanketed this country with propaganda about Cuba, huge amounts of which
Berl: For anybody who is traveling south, you’re going to be headlining
the 5th annual Rosemary Clooney Festival in Maysville, Ky., which is
just along the Ohio-Kentucky border on the Ohio River. Was she an influence
or a friend?
Linda: Tremendous. I remember hearing her when I was 5 years old playing
on the floor of my mother’s bedroom, live on the radio. Rosemary
in age was somewhere between my mother and my older sister, and I met
her at the end of the ‘80s. We became very, very close friends.
She and Nelson were an item for a number of years, and when Nelson died
I had a letter from Rosemary and wrote her back right away and said
I was dying to talk to her and tell her things Nelson had told me, and
she called me right away and invited me to dinner. So, I went over for
dinner. I was sitting there eating my salad and we were talking, and
all of the sudden she said to me, ‘You’re going to be in
my life for the rest of it,’ and I was. She was like a mother.
She was a real advocate for girl singers, for singers like me or Diana
Krall, who was also very close to her. We all said she was like the
patron saint of girl singers. She was a brilliant, wonderful, kind,
generous-hearted woman and a great, great singer. God, could she sing.
Berl: We’re looking forward to having you here in Lansing, Sept.
12 and 13. … Linda Ronstadt, I know you don’t do a lot of
live interviews and I want to thank you very much for doing this one
Linda: It’s my pleasure, and I am really looking forward to coming
back to Michigan! It’s part of my roots!
to respond? Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
our Letters policy.