The recent documentary, The Sound of My Voice, gives us a glimpse into the life and career of Linda Ronstadt, the singer who took the music world by storm in the mid-1970s. She was the first artist to have songs topping the pop, country, and R&B charts at the same time. She had a string of five platinum albums, the most by any female artist. But what comes through most in this film is how Ronstadt just loved to sing.
Ronstadt got her start in the folk and pop worlds, but after her big break in rock and pop music, she tired of playing arenas because she felt she couldn’t really sing in those settings. She took a role in a New York production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. She followed that up with a series of albums that seemed to have nothing to do with each other: old jazz standards with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, country songs with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, and traditional Mexican songs with a mariachi band.
Through all of this, Ronstadt’s love of song was the driving force. As she goes from one style to another over the course of her career, we are constantly struck by that voice. Her voice was a singular instrument that allowed us to feel what the writers were feeling as she gave what was often the definitive readings of their songs. It is disheartening, then, to find her at the end of the film no longer able to sing because of Parkinson’s disease. The Sound of My Voice is a warm and engaging look at the life and career of one of the finest singers of the 20th century. If you enjoyed her music, you’ll enjoy learning more about the person behind the voice. (Streaming now, Greenwich Entertainment)