Review: 'Linda Ronstadt' is a voice that endures

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

The voice was always stunning, able to climb from intimate whisper to angel’s trumpet with breathtaking ease, so clear and powerful it soared over everything around it.

And as the title says, that shiny instrument is the focus of “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice,” a documentary film that looks back on the singer’s career.

The documentary "Linda Ronstadt: Sound of My Voice," by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Freidman, captures and preserves that unforgettable voice, while detailing her career and indelible impact on the music industry. (Courtesy Greenwich Entertainment/TNS)

Yes, she dated the governor of California. Yes, she took speed in the early days of endless touring. And she could be politically controversial. But the film doesn’t dwell much on the personal.

Instead it follows that voice, just as much of the world did though the ‘70s, ‘80s and into the ‘90s. Beginning with her childhood in Tucson, singing Mexican folk songs with her father, then tracking the 18-year-old Ronstadt as she traveled to Hollywood to make it big.

Which she did almost immediately; again, there was no denying that voice. She joined a folk trio, the Stone Poneys, had the enduring hit “Different Drum,” went solo and became the first female superstar of rock, selling out sports arenas. Hit after hit, magazine covers and awards everywhere.

And then she started experimenting. She did “Pirates of Penzance” on Broadway; formed the country Trio with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris; recorded standards with famed arranger Nelson Riddle; even returned to her roots recording Mexican music. At each turn she was hyper successful.

The hits faded in the new century, but she kept singing… until she stopped. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and has been unable to sing for the past decade. Now she’s a grandmotherly 73 and her instrument is gone.

But as this arresting film makes clear, that marvelous clarion voice lives on.

“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice”


Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and drug material

Running time: 95 minutes