20 Deep Cuts from Linda Ronstadt that Reveal Her Artistry

by Tom Cendejas for The Couch Tamale

Linda Ronstadt is having a remarkable year. A documentary about her — “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” — was released this past September in theaters and there’s much buzz about its television debut on CNN on New Year’s Day. She was feted at the Kennedy Center Honors in December; among the many moving moments was the sisterly tribute by Emmylou Harris, surely one of country and pop music’s most harmonious relationships (tripled when they sing with Dolly Parton, a rare treasure indeed.) Her sharp retort to Mike Pompeo at the dinner for the Kennedy Honors made headlines but is consistent with her love of her culture and her outspoken support of migrants. La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in Los Angeles honored Ronstadt at their Awards Gala this past June. “Live in Hollywood”, the singer’s first live album but released only in February of 2019, captured a 1980 cable television concert performance from her “Mad Love”-era tour; the recording climbed the charts. Ms. Ronstadt is also reported to be working with others on a writing project focusing on the US-Mexican border. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee toured theaters last year with a speaking tour about her life and career. The sound of her voice has re-emerged as a balm and bellwether for our times.

I mention all of the above honors before noting the well-reported and tragic retirement of Linda Ronstadt’s singing and performance ability due to a neurological disease simply to show that it’s her vibrancy and vitality, past and present, that no illness has been able to overshadow. Like many of her longtime fans, I stand in solidarity with Linda in concern for her health and well-being. We may truly grieve that just as her heritage is being rediscovered and burnished, she no longer can perform. It’s a tragedy from a realm of darkest fairy tales. It hurts to read that so many now say they regret they weren’t able to hear her live, and that so few of her concerts were recorded and preserved well. I saw her perhaps two dozen times, sometimes three nights in a row at the top of her ‘rock and roll’ era, and like so many great voices that can pierce a concert hall, Linda Ronstadt thrilled.

In the many remembrances of her singing career, no doubt there has been worthy acclaim for her greatest chart-topping hits, with clips and tribute performances attuned to those songs. “Desperado,” “Blue Bayou”, “It’s So Easy,” “You’re No Good,” “Heat Wave,” “Don’t Know Much”and more from her long successful catalog have been frequently heard in the promotions for the film, at the Kennedy Honors and in summations of her career.

However, there’s much to discover in the ‘deep cuts’ in Ronstadt’s recorded legacy, those songs that make track six or eleven, the B-sides, the late-night serenades on the ride home. Linda Ronstadt’s remarkable ability to create a mood, and the variety of influences she consciously pursued and incorporated as she moved from genre to genre, is evidenced even (and perhaps especially) in the songs that didn’t get released as singles or chart highly, but which emerge and enchant through repeated listenings. Whether you are a newly curious seeker or an “every single album” fan like me, I hope it moves you to consider the artistry Linda Ronstadt so generously gave to all her work, and to pursue some dazzling discoveries of your own.

20. “Empty-Handed Heart” Warren Zevon with Linda Ronstadt (1980, “Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School” album by Warren Zevon)

I’ve included this cut here to represent just one excellent example of the many times Linda Ronstadt answered the call to provide backing vocals, codas and harmonies for those whose artistry she respected. Ronstadt frequently cited Zevon as one of her favorite songwriters, covering his “Carmelita”, “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” and more. When they finally sang on the same piece together, Zevon’s deep whiskey croon is framed by Ronstadt’s ethereal warmth. Still, this song is about how a marriage ends, and as Zevon conducts a post-mortem, he pauses his own musing to imagine the other side of the story. Linda only sings four lines here, a haunting descant in the voice of the wife who is being left. Don’t be surprised if you repeat this song over and over just to hear that single verse again; it could also fit right over the credits of Noah Baumbach’s film “Marriage Story.” “Remember when we used to watch the sun set in the sea/You said you’d always be in love with me.”

Consider also checking out the melodic coda Ronstadt contributes to the end of the original version of Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies” from his masterpiece “Graceland” and the many other songs which features Ronstadt contributions.

Ronstadt comes in at the 2:10 mark.

19. “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” (1974, “Heart Like a Wheel”)

Linda Ronstadt’s tender handling of this Buddy Holly gem became a staple of her seventies and early eighties shows. Starting by slowing down the song’s acoustic guitar intro and then gradually adding instruments, Ronstadt slides modest country affectations into her vocals and pauses for a sterling steel guitar solo. A great example of the team magic that occurred when Peter Asher started producing Ronstadt.

18. “Piel Canela” (1990, “Frenesi” album)

While Linda’s first Spanish-language records explored the mariachi music of the southwest and the border lands, “Frenesi” goes to the other coast for a record of Latin jazz with Afro-Cuban, tropical dance selections. Once again, if “La Ronstadt” is going to venture into a genre, she assembles the finest musicians, and that’s the case here. The choice to record “Piel Canela” is particularly witty; many years before, one of the biggest Latin Music albums of all time (and one you’d have found in many suburban Chicano homes) was by swinging-sixties chanteuse Eydie Gorme, who included this on her beloved album with the Trio Los Panchos. So, this selection is a salute from one era’s top-selling Latina singer to another. “Piel Canela” starts with a slow and dusky romantic verse and then turns into a syncopated delight with a simple but immediately insistent hook I dare you to not be whistling minutes later. “Frenesi” is one of Ronstadt’s most underrated albums, and looking back, it’s evidence that in one career and life Ronstadt was mapping a musical journey that jumped from the the West Coast to the New York Met and Tin Pan Alley, from the Southwest to New Orleans to Cuba and beyond.

17. . “Are My Thoughts With You?” (1970, “Silk Purse” album)

Mickey Newbury composed this song; Newbury was one of the youngest songwriters inducted into the Nashville Hall of Fame and was known for exploring sadness in all its dimensions. The lyrics to this song put a spin on the presumed question in the title. Rather than wonder simply if the distant crush or ex-lover is thinking about them, the subject is plaintive about the lack of concentration the consuming passion has produced and wonders sincerely if their thoughts — their independent thinking — has traveled away with the object of love. In other words: “Can I have my mind back?”

This yearning and pining for an unrequited love will become a Ronstadt specialty, and looking back, one can wonder if it was really her own love life being conveyed onstage, or more of a curiosity with a genre that she already knew from many hours singing folk songs and lonely heart Mexican ballads. You can hear her playing with timing here, emphasizing her vibrato; in other words, the early stages of working out her style. The big hit from this album and one constantly requested by fans was ‘Long Long Time’ with its monster hook and direct vocals. ‘Are My Thoughts With You?’ is a song in a similar vein, its dazed-by-passion protagonist wondering if they will ever be sane again. You can already here her artistry in the deceptively simple way she draws out the opening lines “I’m gonna plant me a seed, grow me an ocean…”, setting the stage for a career that will continue that search for every acre of romantic love’s territory.

16. “Simple Man, Simple Dream” (1977, “Simple Dreams” album)

This is only one of several covers of songs by J. D. Souther, who the Songwriter Hall of Fame honored as “a principal architect of the Southern California sound.” He’s also one of the more vibrant and intimate interview subjects in “The Sound of My Voice” documentary, speaking with palpable affection for Ronstadt, who moved in with Souther and who she frequently toasted in concert. (You’d be forgiven if you imagined the two as one of the great legendary Laurel Canyon romances.) However they matched as a couple, the two suited each other as songwriter and interpreter. “Simple Man, Simple Dream” etches a story of a person more complicated than the way they see themselves, and subsequently feeling alienated in a world of profit and bewildering coldness. Steel guitars lament this state of affairs, and Ronstadt matches them with exquisite tonal control, sudden vocal leaps and whispery conversational drops.

15. “Forgetting” (1986, “Songs from Liquid Days”, Philip Glass/Laurie Anderson/Linda Ronstadt/The Roches)

First, just look at that song credit talent, a real mid-80s NYC downtown zeitgeist roster. (Suzanne Vega, David Byrne, Paul Simon and David Byrne also contributed to the album.) Glass composed a song cycle, a mix of his minimalist, cascading repetitions and experimentations — “art music” as it was called. Glass recalls that one of the most difficult parts of recording this work was the “long and difficult process of casting singers for the individual songs. We felt that the interpretation a singer brings to the song is an immense contribution to its character…” In casting Ronstadt for two songs, Glass effectively and decidedly affirmed Ronstadt’s ambitions to transcend the limitations of rock singing and her voice here is operatic and ethereal. The sheer concept of Ronstadt singing Glass’ music and Laurie Anderson lyrics with The Roches is staggering; the result is perhaps not immediately accessible for everyone but with patience reveals its layers. Ronstadt is even more haunting on the track ‘Freezing’ from the same album. When people talk about Ronstadt’s experimentation and range, they talk about the major shifts in album style, but it’s worth noting she sought out experimentation and was sought after by many artists for numerous individual songs and projects. As one commenter mentions on this video, it’s doubtful Ronstadt ever regretted her decision to move past Top 40 radio.

14. “Cry Me a River” (2004, “Humming to Myself” album)

In 2004 Ronstadt revisited the standards she famously jumped over the rock-and-roll fence to sing in the early 1980s. Back then she embraced Nelson Riddle’s big band orchestral arrangements; here she went into cabaret mode, singing with a sterling jazz combo. “Cry Me a River” is one of the most famous of all torch songs, and certainly synonymous with Julie London’s husky tones. Ronstadt takes her own path, and conjures up a late-night potion of wistfulness and strength.

13. “Birds” (1972, “Linda Ronstadt” album)

This is a cover of a song by another of Linda’s contemporaries, Neil Young. (Ronstadt has covered several Young songs and sung with him on several of his records.) Young has written phenomenal and enduring songs, but this is one of his most delicate, a goodbye to a lover that is both tender and in its last lines, a bit brutal. Ronstadt’s gender switch adds a frisson of power dynamics yet retains the tone of gentle goodbye in restrained folk-flavored vocals.

12. “Round Midnight” (1986, “For Sentimental Reasons” album) and “You Took Advantage of Me”

It’s haunting to realize this was the last track on the trilogy of standards that Linda Ronstadt recorded with the great conductor and arranger Nelson Riddle; Riddle died before the album wrapped. “Round Midnight” has appropriately noir-ish strings and sax and brush drum. While the first album features Ronstadt as a debutante big band singer in white dress and gloves, by the third record she’d moved on to a higher level of confidence, yet lived a little more comfortably in the shadows. Ronstadt’s respectful but not too careful approach to “Round Midnight” elucidates what a lesson about pure depression that song is; meant as lovelorn poetry, in today’s light it looks like a symptom check list for clinical mood disorder. Ronstadt’s low tones and breathy but richly resonant pure notes cloak the song in understanding. The very last notes of the orchestral arrangement signals not only the fall of night but the fall of a great musician in Mr. Riddle; thankfully Ronstadt’s records helped remind another generation of his talent. There are many songs to grab onto from these three albums of standards; “Round Midnight” is a track that grabs you and demands a late-night listen. (If you’d like a jaunty, confident alternative to “Round Midnight”, try the same album’s “You Took Advantage of Me.”)

11. “Easy for You to Say” (1982, “Get Closer” album)

Ronstadt included two songs by Jimmy Webb in this album, and the production here is emblematic of a “mellow rock” sound that has now been revisited in hindsight with more appreciation and even with an eye to imitation. This song is a great example of how Ronstadt could effectively use sustained notes powerfully, both in her full-throated and higher registers.

10. “Across the Border” (1999, “The Western Wall Sessions” with Emmylou Harris) and “Adonde Voy” from “Winter Light”

People seem to love this Springsteen-penned song for its suggestion of an ultra-romantic love that transcends time and loss, but its more direct and urgent meaning centers on the struggles of migrants who endure danger to escape danger. In this case, the story tells of one lover who must cross the river ahead of the other, and the fervent hope that they will be reunited. Ronstadt sings with harmony soul sister Emmylou Harris; they’ve both sung evocative versions of Springsteen songs solo on individual albums previously, and here they sing the songs with a lightness of touch that emphasizes the dreams immigrants hold. Ronstadt has long been an outspoken advocate for Mexican and Central American migrants, and this lovely duet with Harris speaks not only to the struggles at the border but also to the values and compassionate character of the singers. “What are we, without hope in our hearts?”

A good companion for this deep cut is a track from Ronstadt’s acclaimed “Winter Light” album, “Adonde Voy” (‘Where am I going?’) Going back to 1993, the inclusion of this wondrous Tish Hinojosa ballad about a lover whose thoughts are frantically scattered between memories of the beloved and immediate fears about being caught by the border patrol displays Ronstadt’s sensitivity and heart on this issue as a prevalent concern going back to her youth in Arizona. Still, too many music critics at the time brushed past her Spanish-language tracks, perhaps uncomfortable writing about them. It’s more than time for this gem to be rediscovered as it reveals not only Ronstadt’s musical career, but her heart.

9. “La Cigarra” (1987, “Canciones De Mi Padre” album)

As many fans know, right after the creative risk of breaking from rock and pop to sing three albums of big band-era standards, Ronstadt confounded record executives even further with her gutsy insistence on recording songs that paid tribute to her heritage and the music her father and grandfather led her to sing growing up. Mariachi music was too often dismissed casually by the American public as a punchline to a ‘Three Amigos’ style joke or as background in a Mexican restaurant. By moving it front and center for her fan base, Ronstadt helped bridge generations, particulary among Mexican-Americans, and gave this often dramatic, difficult-to-sing music its time on the main stage. “La Cigarra” is especially challenging, requiring breaks and leaps; Ronstadt’s high vault into her falsetto is thrilling, as is the way she slides the ‘cry’ in her voice into the last lines effortlessly into this song’s sad, poetic meditations on loss and coming to terms with death.

8. “The Dark End of the Street” (1974, “Heart Like a Wheel” album)

Peter Asher’s production again shines in this remake of a classic soul song. The mysterious lyrics hint at a tale of ‘forbidden love’ and the need to pass each other on the street without public acknowledgment. Linda’s voice simultaneously mourns and soars over Andrew Gold’s guitar and electric piano mastery, cushioned by a gospel back-up led by no less than the formidable Cissy Houston. Ronstadt’s voice is particularly powerful here, alternating between resignation and determination. (Note: I’ve linked the recorded version, but you can also find a live version from 1973 performed prior to the album.)

7. “The Blue Train” (appears both on 1995’s “Feels Like Home” album and 1999’s “Trio II”; with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton)

This record’s zig-zagging melody reflects the stop-start progress of a commuter train, and on this one everyone has been rejected and dejected by love and life. It’s a depressing scenario, and yet don’t be surprised if even after one listen you know the melody and immediately want to sing along to it again. Ronstadt is the lead over the ‘Trio’ harmonies and sings the song as less of a complaint and more of a lilt, a soother of troubled and lonely souls.

6. “Prisoner in Disguise” (1975, “Prisoner in Disguise” album)

Ronstadt singing a duet with J.D. Souther may give you Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks vibes, recalling Southern Californian turbulent romantic pairings who sang gracefully together. It’s a gentle song about the familiar theme of loneliness in Ronstadt’s canon, here portrayed evocatively by the precisely weary way the songwriter and his muse trill the great couplet,“The city is no place to hide in/Everybody knows your number…” A perfect match. See also: Souther’s “Faithless Love” on the “Heart Like a Wheel” album.

5. “Telling Me Lies” (1987, “Trio” with Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton)

“You don’t know what a chance is/Until you have to seize one/You don’t know what a man is/Until you have to please one.” These laser-sharp lyrics were written by British folk singer Linda Thompson as she was famously divorcing Richard Thompson. (Check out their lacerating album, “Shoot Out the Lights.”) According to Thompson, she nursed her wounds by staying with friend Linda Ronstadt. Some years later, Ronstadt sang lead on the song, with Harris and Parton on backup harmonies. The gorgeous melody belies the bitterness and frustration of a woman who can’t cover her ears or close her eyes enough to block out the memory of being lied to; it’s one of the most peaceful sounding songs about romantic anguish you can ever imagine.

4. “Anyone Who Had a Heart” (1993, “Winter Light” album)

By this point in her career, Ronstadt had a reputation for honoring the greatest in the songwriter pantheon, but she had yet to really delve into the Bacharach/David catalog. While this song may have always seemed sui generis to its original vocalist Dionne Warwick, Ronstadt was at the point where she didn’t need to compete, only follow her inclinations. Gutsy enough to take on the song, she proves a wonderful interpreter, creating tension with her own call and response and hitting those unique syncopations right where she wants to. This is a track you can play when you’re home alone or in the car and need the catharsis of belting romantic yearning at the top of your lungs. Side note: When asked what other Bacharach songs she would have liked to have recorded, Ronstadt mentions one of the tracks he composed with and for Elvis Costello, “I Still Have That Other Girl.” One more reason to mourn the physical loss of Ronstadt’s singing voice; she never got to record what surely would have been a stirring version.

3. “Adios” (1989, “Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind” album)

You’ll hear many a serious Ronstadt fan talk about their soft spot for this ballad. It’s sentimental, and though it wasn’t her last record by any means, “Adios” feels like the goodbye we never got to give her on a retirement or farewell tour (as if one can imagine that without a disease this singer would have ever given up pursuing more music.) In addition to revisiting the writer Jimmy Webb, “Adios” surrounds Ronstadt in Beach Boy harmonies that pair well with this sampling of some of her best personal vocal stylings: the rich, warm notes in her midrange, the forceful belting that recalls one of her inspirations, Lola Beltran and the agile and masterful steps up to her crystalline falsetto. If there’s anything about this song that remains a bit controversial among fans and even casual listeners, it’s the backsliding she does here with the Spanish accent. Years after recording “Canciones de mi Padre”, Ronstadt follows Webb’s apparent musical cue to sing the word “Adios”, which would most likely be pronounced with two quick syllables, into an (anglicized?) “A-dee-ose!”, something you’d expect to hear from the guy getting off the bar stool at an old Red Onion — “A-dee-ose, Moo-cha-chos!” Ultimately this is of course a small quibble, because once you hear the song, you may well find yourself addicted to repeat listenings, and imitating that three syllable ‘goodbye’ on your own. A stunning performance encapsulating many elements of Ronstadt’s longtime style.

2. “Try Me Again” (1976, “Hasten Down the Wind” album)

Ronstadt has forged a career of song interpretation, showing that intelligently curating a oeuvre of music can say as much about a musician’s identity as if they’d written all the lyrics themselves. However, there are a very few times when Ronstadt co-wrote a song, and in this case she is said to have written the lyrics. They are instantly cinematic; the a cappella intro tells us that a woman has driven past her ex’s house, and we get the feeling this isn’t the first time. This is a naked, honest song about romantic obsession, even borderline stalking (it just seemed like due diligence back in the seventies), and both shedding and reclaiming one’s dignity to beg for another chance. Ronstadt herself shows that the strength of the pleading is itself a type of honor and by sheer force of will she cries out to be reconsidered. It’s too bad more ‘Voice’-type contestants stay with the modern era’s tried and familiar hits to compete with over and over; “Try Me Again” would be perfect for a singer who wants to show off their chops and make the judges sit up and pay attention to their song selection. This is one of those songs that is probably far more relatable that most people would like to admit, and kudos to Linda Ronstadt for so many years ago making the haunting case that when it comes to lost love, asking for a second chance is sometimes all we know and want to do. This is one of Ronstadt’s most ‘diva’ moments, recalling Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back to Me” and many others from the pop canon but thoroughly flavored by her excellent band (the great Waddy Wachtel, Dan Dugmore, Andrew Gold and more) for a true example of the “Southern California Sound”; the result is electrifying.

1. “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me” (1976, “Hasten Down the Wind” album)

Once upon a time, kids, there were these gods and demigods that walked among us and gifted us with their songs. They came from all over the land to the City of Angels, met each other in adobe cantinas, courted and lived in canyons, deserts and beaches. And when they were in love, you knew it; their passions scorched like a heat wave. They kissed and danced and switched partners in bed and backstage. And when fortune and riches came their way, they settled together in colonies, such as the magical Malibu, and some fell prey to potions, poisons and betrayals. And oh, when their hearts broke — how they broke! Disillusionment chilled the air, and separate trails followed.

And children, if you want to know what all that sounded like in the 1970s, listen to “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me”, a ballad by Karla Bonoff (a wonderful singer-songwriter) but sung here by Linda Ronstadt as though she was making it up after closing the door of a lover’s penthouse. This song about the shadow side of sexual liberation starts with plaintive minor notes on a tentative solo piano, much like the object of seduction might pause to reconsider, and then settles into a hypnotic, carousel-like melody following a woman walking through the concrete and bleary neon corridors of a city. Guitar chords crunch in; the energy is suddenly assertive and domineering, but not exactly erotic.

Ronstadt’s voice rises to sing to this woman, perhaps singing to herself, that the coolness of dawn always arrives, and “the sun will soon share all the cost/of a world that can be sort of heartless/not like love that I feel in my heart.” The sex didn’t solve the loneliness, and the voice struggles with eternal questions and inner pleas: “Someone to lay down beside me/you just can’t ask for more.” Throw a question mark behind that last statement, and the meaning changes, becomes more of a feminist cri de couer that makes you consider the song is less concerned about being cynical about callow young men and more concerned with sisterly advice: Why shouldn’t you be able to ask for more?

To get the fullness of this song, take a long look at the album cover. Then come to LA, head out to Pacific Coast Highway and play it loud while driving towards Malibu; it’s a soundtrack of a time and a place no longer there, though still perhaps whispered by a shimmering dusk and which stands in Southern California legend as much as anything by The Eagles (Ronstadt’s former backing band, by the way) or any male musician from the time. Like Ronstad’s well-known version of “Desperado”, it deserves to be considered as a West Coast rock anthem. It’s quintessential Seventies, it’s quintessential late-night tequila balladry, it’s quintessential Santa-Ana-winds-blowing-through-your-hair-in-a-convertible, and in its surgeon-like and compassionately precise exploration of a dispirited anima, it’s quintessential Linda Ronstadt. All hail this Queen of Broken Hearts, who raised so many legions of hearts on her lovely bare shoulders and offered them healing.

Bonus Cut: “Lose Again”

Like ‘Someone to Lay Down Beside Me’, ‘Lose Again’ is a song written by the gifted singer-songwriter Karla Bonoff. The ballad was on the 1975 album ‘Hasten Down the Wind’, which I see as one of the exemplars of the ‘Seventies Sound’ that has found a revival today, as we see by the interest in documentaries like ‘Laurel Canyon’ and the tributes paid to the iconic artists of the era by many contemporary young artists. Like ‘Someone’, it’s a slow burn song of romantic melancholy bordering or even, frankly, crossing into psychological and spiritual despair. The imagery of feeling unable to ‘escape’ an unfaithful lover (‘Nothing can free me from this ball and chain’) is held in tension with the subject’s attempts at resolute action, the attempt to leave, to stand on one’s own. However, every time she seeks to follow through, she finds ‘Nothing can save me from this ball and chain’ (calling back to a similar motif from Ronstadt’s previous album, ‘Prisoner in Disguise.’) The lyrics are universal enough to apply to any situation which we have difficulty disentangling from, but open to interpretation about how pathological our loss of choice has become. The arrangement provides a counterpoint to the conflict via gorgeous, emblematically ‘seventies rock’ harmonies. Ronstadt’s soaring, mercurial voice — half lament, half cry for freedom — perfectly captures the song’s taut anxiety without tipping her hand about whether this prisoner will, or can, walk towards the open cell door.

DEEP CUT LIVE PERFORMANCE: ‘DOWN SO LOW’

When I first published this list, I shared it in a number of Linda Ronstadt fan groups. Lots of people had suggestions of songs I’d left off that were their favorites, and of course, being a fan myself, I agreed with all of them. But the one performance most often cited was this tour de force, once again from the ‘Hasten Down the Wind’ album, and written by the great blues and country singer-songwriter Tracy Nelson. In the song, a rejected lover seeks to accept the reality that their partner has moved on, but insists that won’t solve the real problem: ‘But it’s not losing you/That has me down so low/I just can’t find/Another man/To take your place.’ We all know this place, this pit of despair from which we try to convince ourselves it’s not the end of the relationship that hurts, but the grief that the person we lost was so perfect for us, we’ll never be satisfied again. The lyrics brilliantly hint at self-deception mostly, but if sung right, it can transform into a midnight reckoning, an expression of depressed yearning that can even convey the potential for recovery and moving on. In order to do that, it must be sung with a near gospel-blues fervor, a signal of resilience that the singer must draw up from deep inside, as though pulling a bucket from a well. And that’s the performance Linda Ronstadt gives here, full of concentration and nuance, and drawn from the deepest well. On the record she gets an assist from a gospel choir, but live, she has to be the entire chorus, and her summoning of all her powers here is devastating and goosebump-inducing and despite the depressive nature of the lyrics, somehow, impossibly, hopeful.

Linda Ronstadt’s acclaimed performance of ‘Down So Low’

And if you’re looking for more deep cuts, consider: “If I Should Fall Behind,” “The Sweetest Gift,” “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” “White Rhythm and Blues,” “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up on the Jukebox,” “Colorado,” “Goodbye My Friend,” “Walk Away Renee,” “Faithless Love,” “Don’t Talk Put Your Head on My Shoulders,” “When Something is Wrong with My Baby,” “Heart Like a Wheel,” and many, many more.

Linda Ronstadt at the Kennedy Center Honors, December 2019

Film, Music, Peak TV, Diversity— Tom Cendejas is sitting on a sofa and unwrapping Pop Culture with a Latino eye, one husk at a time. tomcend@gmail.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store