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Interview: Linda Ronstadt

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Don’t try to put a label on Linda Ronstadt’s music.

Just as you hang the country, rock, big band, jazz, standards, Mexican, or other moniker on her she changes genres, seemingly as effortlessly as most people change clothes. Arguably one of her first major departures was in the mid 1980s when she moved from rock to standards accompanied by the Nelson Riddle Orchestra.

“I deliberately chose the Nelson Riddle material,” said Ronstadt, 61. “They are amazingly rich and emotionally complex songs that work equally well for someone 17 as for someone my age.”

Perhaps what sets Ronstadt apart is her willingness to take risks both professionally and personally. Her musical quest has led her to 31 platinum and gold records, 11 Grammy Awards, and numerous other accolades. But she’s not done with the exploration yet.

Her most recent work includes forays into jazz with the 2004 album Hummin’ to Myself and the 2006 release of Adieu False Heart with Cajun folk traditionalist Anne Savoy.

“The album is like a conversation between two dear friends about love,” said Ronstadt of Adieu. “There are all kinds of love; traditional love, love for children, love for friends… We are not one person, we are a series of that person, a series of additions. Your life story is cumulative.”

Ronstadt plans to show all sides of her musical life story on her current tour, structuring the sets so they begin with music from the first half of the last century and ends with her later work, including hits such as “Different Drum.”

While Ronstadt’s musical journey continues, the woman who described herself as “an ultra liberal” decades ago hasn’t softened her stance. While she doesn’t express regret for expressing those views, the manner in which she expressed them — which sometimes resulted in public showdowns — seems to give her pause.

“If I had it to do over I would be much more gracious to everyone,” said Ronstadt. “You can be as outspoken as you want if you are very, very respectful. Show some grace.”

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