MOVIES: Linda Ronstadt – The Sound of My Voice // Sound City
While we’re at it, people on Facebook and NextDoor have been recommending the bio-pick about Linda Ronstadt – The Sound of My Voice. The movie is showing at The Esquire Theatre, 6th & Downing, Denver. If a camera can be said to love a face, the microphone has always loved Linda Ronstadt’s voice.
Her big, luminous voice turned songwriters’ best songs into epics beyond their imaginations. Her relentless artistic drive led her far past the five consecutive platinum albums as a rock singer to daring choices like performing Gilbert and Sullivan on Broadway, recording an album of traditional Mexican folk songs, and singing pop standards with Sinatra’s arranger, Nelson Riddle.
When she announced in 2013 that Parkinson’s disease had robbed her of the ability to sing, even in the shower, a nation of music fans grieved the loss.
The irony of such a beautiful voice being stilled floats over the entire 90 minutes of the new documentary “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice,” where none of the procession of associates and other commentators make the case for her greatness better than Ronstadt herself, captured in vintage clip after vintage clip, singing the hell out of everything she does.
Filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Freidman lay out a dizzying cavalcade of incredible vocal performances, woven into a tapestry of her associates telling her story.
Ronstadt herself is captured in her full chatty, self-effacing candor in archival interviews, voiceover and a touching finale singing a Mexican folk song with her nephew and cousin.
After watching her belt, blast and harmonize with power and precision through wildly diverse styles of music like an Amazon heroine, to see her weakly struggle her way through this short piece is the kind of heart-string moment documentary filmmakers can only hope to catch.
Like Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt was born to sing.
Epstein and Freidman skillfully trace the roots of her art in her family and early life in Tucson, Ariz. After moving to Hollywood to sing and hitting the charts with a stunning debut hit, “Different Drum,” as lead vocalist of a folky trio, the Stone Poneys, Ronstadt quickly found herself stripped of the sidemen and marketed as a solo vocalist, a rock chick who posed for sexy album covers, but made deeply felt, richly musical albums.
Her association with producer Peter Asher brought the breakthrough 1974 album, “Heart Like a Wheel,” and the hit record that established her, a cover of a 1963 R&B record by Betty Everett, “You’re No Good.” A blistering montage of Ronstadt scorching the song opens the film.
The cast of interview subjects testifies to the esteem in which her colleagues hold her; Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Jackson Browne, Don Henley, record company presidents David Geffen and Joe Smith. Her personal life is touched upon, but it is her robust artistic life that is the documentary’s true subject. Her friends reflect on her nagging self-doubts, unshakable insecurities and constant striving for perfection and Ronstadt chimes in: “I’m never really satisfied with what I do.”
But a staggering onslaught of breathtaking vocal performances tumble through this film — Ronstadt singing the aching “Long, Long Time,” the ebullient “When Will I Be Loved,” the soulful “Blue Bayou.” She nails the soprano part in “Pirates of Penzance,” takes ownership of the Sinatra standard “What’s New,” and practically makes love to New Orleans R&B crooner Aaron Neville on “Don’t Know Much.”
For the film’s final statement on the magnitude of Ronstadt’s legacy, they go to the final credits with a clip from the induction ceremony for her entrance to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. It takes five women to stand in for Ronstadt — Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow and Carrie Underwood — and they still don’t sound as good as Ronstadt.
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Jerri Theill: Watched the documentary ‘Sound City’ today. Really, really good. For anyone that has a career in music- you have to see it!
Trailer for Sound City: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQoOfiLz1G4