Sunday, July 15, 2007

Happy Birthday Linda!

If there was a soundtrack to my life it would be the music of Linda Ronstadt.

She is 61 years old today. It is truly impossible to express all that her music has meant to me as I've journeyed through this life, but I'll try...

My infatuation began with It's So Easy which a guest vocalist sang to a bunch of prepubescent adolescents at a special assembly when I was in Junior High School. I did not know the song but the scary opinionated girl behind me sure did. She had evidently heard it before and was none too thrilled with the vocal stylings of the young lady performing on stage. In a thick Long Island accent I overheard her balk to her friend that she "didn't want to listen to no skank f--k up her favorite song". Being a civilized and timid youth I was quite taken aback by her remark but I proceeded to become lost in the guttural sounds the singer on stage was producing.

When I got home I told my mom about the assembly and the girl who sang some cool song by someone named Linda Ronstadt.

That Saturday while I was expressing my creativity in ceramics class my mom and little sister did some shopping. When they picked me up my smiling mom surprised me by handing me a small gift in a Sam Goody's bag. It was a 45 by Linda Ronstadt! I remember this moment very clearly, standing in the parking lot, the look of the record label, my little sister trying to contain her enthusiasm until I opened the bag. The song was Blue Bayou. I remember being so excited and all I wanted to do was run home to my record player and listen to it. When we finally did arrive home and listen I quickly realized that it was not the same song I had heard at school. But, I really liked it. So the following weekend I trekked on down to Two Guys department store to purchase Simple Dreams.

I was hooked.

All of the events of my life can be linked to a Linda Ronstadt song. The first song I ever sang in public at a bar when I was 18 years old was Birds from the album entitled Linda Ronstadt.

I listened to Somewhere Out There in my first apartment in New York City while I wrapped a stuffed Fievel for my nephew.

I roller skated to How Do I Make You and struggled through the lean years at NYU with Linda and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra.

I fell in love during Don't Know Much and had my heart broken to Frenesí.

As luck would have it, my years of obsession finally paid off. I was at work one morning (this was before my teaching days) and there was a contest on the radio. They were asking listeners to identify 10 Linda Ronstadt songs in 10 seconds. The winner would get front row tickets to see Linda at Radio City Music Hall for the Feels Like Home tour. OOH, I could do this. Bring it on! They played the 10 second clip and I knew them all. I called in and rattled off my list. I was promptly asked to hold because they wanted to put me on the air. When they did I repeated my song list although I am afraid that I came across as a bit too manic with my persistent question:


No, that was not included. Here is where years of watching I Love Lucy paid off as I devised a plan to finagle my way backstage one way or another. The night before the show I tossed and turned in bed wondering what I should say to this woman whose music meant so much to me. I was sure that I would figure out a way to meet her.

The next night I waltzed up to the front row feeling nervous and expectant. Of course, I had already purchased tickets to this show but when I won the radio contest I gave them to a friend. So I was feeling the love of the audience myself. I was seated beside a young woman and her mother who had also won a radio contest. They had a better prize; front row seats, Linda's entire music catalog (as if I needed that) AND backstage passes!!!!

She became my new best friend.

I turned on the charm full blast and by the time a Radio City employee came to escort her backstage after the show there was no way I was going to be left out. I followed them upstairs to a crowded dressing room full of 'meet and greet' folks. My eyes darting around the room, my hands shaking, my heart pounding so fast you could see it. After several years of waiting in this cavernous room an elevator opened and out stepped Linda Ronstadt. What do I do now? She was walking towards me and I didn't know what to do. She tried to get around me but when she stepped to the side so did I and we proceeded to do a little dance, back and forth until by some miracle she made it past.

I stepped back into the hangers and waited for my turn. What will I say?


"Hi Linda. You know I was in bed last night thinking that I have loved you for more than half my life!"

Awkward smile. Forced small talk. Pose for a picture. Get an autograph. Breathe.

Notice my manic expression, the crazy eyes, the tremendous JOY.
Then, take a look at Linda thinking "When is this over?"

Now I can check that off of my list of things to do. I regret that she and I will probably never become friends (I say probably because one never knows what the future may bring). I do not really like to call myself a fan - it belittles our relationship. Okay, I do realize that makes me sound like a crazy person but I would like to have an opportunity to meet her on equal terms. Not as some gushing, crazed, starstruck lunatic but as a person she would be interested in meeting. If I meet her again I hope to retain a shred of dignity. Still, I am happy that I can get so worked up about things. It speaks of a capacity for undying passion and an openness that I am glad to possess.

Happy Birthday Linda! Thanks for the memories.

Instead of including the familiar tunes I chose a song that she never recorded for your viewing pleasure. Ain't she purdy?

If you are not familiar with her music may I suggest downloading the following: Blue Bayou, You're No Good, Still Within the Sound of my Voice, Walk Away Renee, Ooh Baby Baby, Different Drum, Try Me Again, Long, Long Time, What'll I Do, Love Has No Pride, Lose Again or any of the aforementioned tunes.


Junk Thief said...

What a sweet birthday tribute! I've got a few years on you, but when I add it up, I've loved her more than half of my life too. Maybe even two-thirds, going back to her very first recordings.

I agree with all of your selections. I'd add her album "Winter Light," which I think is very overlooked but has some very moving moments. I really love that album, even though some of the tunes have a lot of heartache in them.

Her look hasn't changed that much through the years, but she has weaved through far more genres than any other female vocalist that I can think of, showing that the surface stuff is just window dressing. Whether its country, pop, do-wop, Nelson Riddle, Gilbert & Sullivan, Cuban, canciones or Bacharach, she always reaches for the heart on a very deep level.

I'm impressed by the photo and great story of the face-to-face encounter. Lucky you!

Joy said...

So what are you trying to say here? you like her or what? ;)

I'm surprised you didn't mention the time we went to Carvel and got a birthday cake with Happy Birthday Lindawritten on it and brought it back to your house to celebrate in her honor. I recall you were into your cub-scout apparel at the time. Oh my god, theater students should not be allowed out in public, huh? ;)

MONA said...

awww! what a wonderful tribute!

WEll. Linda shares her birthday with my husband!

[LOL.Sorry Gary.. but for me it would have to be the other way round as I do not know her!]

But I am going to listen to her song that you have put here!

& of course you are not crazy. I know exctly how that must feel! You are a true love affairist like me!

Reya Mellicker said...

How sweet! I love the pic of the two of you. You don't look crazed, but you do look joyous.

She does have the most amazing voice!

Love to you, you enthusiastic creature!

florecita said...

Hey Gary, about your pic, that's Love... we need that in our Universe!!!!! no matter what kind of Love it gives all beings peace from within!!!!!!

Happy Birthday to Linda!!!!!

marxsny said...

I agree with Junk Thief, Winter Light is my favorite Linda Ronstadt record and not just because of Adonde Voy and those Dusty Springfield songs.
As far as songs go, I never get tired of hearing "Easy For You To Say". I think it is my favorite of all her songs. Perhaps she will sing it next month and we can listen from our seats which were not the seats we wanted. :-D

Gary said...

JT you know your Linda! I stand impressed! Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comments. I of course agree with your assessment of Winter Light - very underrated but it did find its way to many of us who appreciate it. Thanks for adding the musical genres, if I tried to include everything I wanted into the post it would have been much too long. :)

Joy -- I was also going to include the birthday/cub scout/putt putt golfing story but again my editors nixed it. Thanks for slipping it in there darling.

Happy Birthday to your husband Mona! I hope you both did something wonderful to celebrate. I love your phrase "a true love affairist". Oh, so what did you think of Linda after watching/listening to this song?

Reya, watch out for a CD coming your way -- but not only Linda, LOL.

Florecita that is a great attitude. By the way, I think you will enjoy my next post - I tried my hand at some Spanish. (well, copied it but still...)

Mark how could I forget "Easy for you to Say"? Another gem. Yes, I am looking forward to seeing her again on August 15th!!!!!

WAT said...

Great artist indeed, with an amazing voice. I still have yet to listen to most of her 70s stuff, but know she was quite big back in the day.

Linda is a Cancer like me! I had no idea.

Gary said...

Happy Birthday Wat! I have to get out there and hear your karoke singing sometime. Perhaps a duet?

Brendan said...

Great songs, great memories. She has a wonderful track singing with the Chieftains on their CD of Spanish Celtic music, "Santiago."

Btomlinson said...

Don't worry Mark - when I lived in Los Angeles I spent a lot of time around celebrities - and they're use to people getting nervous and excited around them - I'm sure Linda's been through that awkward moment many times. I am particularly interested in your photo here - Linda looks exceptionally gorgeous and happy in this shot. I think you charmed the pants off her. LUCKY!!!!!


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