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October 2, 2013

Linda Ronstadt lifts her voice to life's challenges, 'Simple Dreams'

LOS ANGELES — One of the most touching anecdotes in Linda Ronstadt’s new memoir, “Simple Dreams,” comes in the moment she told her parents she was skipping out on college to pursue a career in music.

“My parents were upset and tried to talk me out of it,” she writes in the book, published Sept. 17. “When it became apparent that they couldn’t change my mind, my father went into the other room and returned with the Martin acoustic guitar that his father had bought in 1898.

“When my father began singing as a young man, my grandfather had given him the instrument and said, ‘Ahora que tienes guitarra, nunca tendrás hambre.’ (‘Now that you own a guitar, you will never be hungry.’) My father handed me the guitar with the same words. Then he took out his wallet and handed me thirty dollars. I made it last a month.”

Her grandfather’s words were prophetic, setting the stage for a career that’s stretched across five decades and more than 30 albums. Thanks to her unparalleled voice, Ronstadt became one of the most successful and emotive rock and pop singers of the 1970s, not to mention the only artist ever who’s earned Grammy Awards in country, pop, Mexican American and Tropical Latin categories.

But in August, Ronstadt, 67, revealed that she wouldn’t be singing anymore because of the effects of Parkinson’s disease.

“It happened gradually,” she said in an interview recently with an almost matter-of-fact tone about losing her ability to sing. “I was struggling for so long, at some point it was a relief (to get the diagnosis and) not to have to struggle anymore. What happens with Parkinson’s is that in the brain there’s faulty wiring, like the communication cables are broken. My vocal cords weren’t getting the message.

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