LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE
(director/writer: Rob Epstein/Jeffrey Friedman; cinematographer: Nancy Schreiber, Ian Coad; editors: Jake Pushinsky, Heidi Scharfe; music: Bennett Salvay, Julian Raymond; cast: Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, Aaron Neville, Cameron Crowe, Don Henley, Ry Cooder, John Boylan, Peter Asher, David Geffen; Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: James Keach, Michele Farinola, Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman; Greenwich Entertainment; 2019)
“Engaging musical biography on the awesome Linda Ronstadt.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman (“The Times of Harvey Milk”/”The Celluloid Closet”) are co-directors of this engaging musical biography on the awesome Linda Ronstadt. It’s a good film despite being a conventional and shallow one. It uses Linda’s close singer friends like Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt and Dolly Parton to gush all over her and tell us some warm personal moments they had with her. We are informed that Linda’s career spanned some five-decades and she proved that she could sing just about anything well (including pop, folk, rock, country, Mexican canciones, jazz and operetta).
Aside from Linda’s immense singing talent, the documentary presents her as such a sincere and likable person, someone you feel good she became such a success and sad that her career came to a sudden halt in 2009 because of her Parkinson’s disease. The now 73-year-old survivor can only sing in a limited way some Mexican folk songs at home with a few of her relatives. The 10-time Grammy winning superstar made her mark in the music world and comes through in this documentary as one of the most refreshing musical personalities of our time.
Linda narrates her life story in a straight-forward and easy way. She tells us of being raised as a happy child on a ranch in a Mexican border town in Arizona and living in Tuscon with her loving father who was of Mexican/German descent while her loving mom came from a well-educated Michigan family. Linda beams when talking of how much fun she had singing with her family in Spanish but speaking with them only in English, and when 18 became part of a singing duo in Tuscon. With no opportunities to advance her career in that small city, she moved onto the swinging L.A. scene and was modestly successful singing in a trio called The Stone Poneys, before signing her first record album in 1969 with Capital Records as a solo singer. Incidentally, one of her touring bands became the Eagles.
The ’70s became Linda’s glory days, where she became arguably the biggest female singer of her time and appeared as a guest on countless TV shows and filled big sporting arenas across the country with her touring act. It’s pointed out however that she’s someone who never wrote her own songs.
The documentary’s best moment is of her being filmed in a studio with her band in 1976 and she’s singing Karla Bonoff’s morose ballad “Lose Again,” whereby she builds up each verse and chorus and when she reaches the last line — “I love you and lose again” — the word love comes out with such a force that it’s a joyful jolt that resonates in the room and with the listener.
Her music was all about her beautiful voice. Her accomplishments are so vast, it would take more than one documentary to tell it all. What this film does well is tell her story through many film clips and in these clips show off her ability to sing any type of song. What it didn’t do enough, is get into her personal life when she wasn’t performing. It could have told us more about her longtime close relationship with California’s Governor Jerry Brown and gotten more of her rich insights into what’s going down in the world arena. She’s more frank and informed on political and social views than your typical rock or country star, and this would have been a good time for the filmmakers to have just sat down and talked to her about what she feels strongly about.
REVIEWED ON 2/26/2020 GRADE: B