Top 10 Linda Ronstadt Songs
Parkinson’s Disease has silenced Linda Ronstadt, but not before she helped reacquaint a generation of music fans in the ’70s with then-forgotten rock and R&B songs from the ’50s and ’60s, even as she introduced figures like Andrew Gold and Warren Zevon to a wider audience.
Setting a musical road map that would be perfected by her early backing group the Eagles — and scoring a huge hit with Don Henley along the way — Ronstadt would dominate the pop and the country charts for the latter part of the ’70s.
In all she scored some 38 Hot 100 singles, with 21 of them going into the Billboard Top 40 — and 10 reaching the Top 10. Most of them came from the ’70s, a period she all but defined as the first lady of pop music. So does our list …
Long before it became a No. 5 hit for Ronstadt, this remake of the Motown favorite ‘Heat Wave’ had been relegated to the B-side of the lead single from her 1975 album ‘Prisoner in Disguise’ — a perfectly serviceable Neil Young song called ‘Love Is a Rose.’ Radio disc jockeys flipped the 45 over, however, to find this fun update of a track which originally hit for Martha and the Vandellas in 1963.
‘Just One Look’
Another early-’60s R&B cover, this time from Doris Troy, made for yet another approachable remake for Ronstadt — who had the highest charting remake of this song ever at No. 42. (Graham Nash’s update with the Hollies only got to No. 44.) Throw in a ’70s-cool satin outfit and roller skates on the album cover image, and this is the complete package.
‘That’ll Be The Day’
This song had a lengthy history in rock before Ronstadt’s cover version on this 1976 Grammy-winning album — having been a signature track for co-writer Buddy Holly, and the first song recorded by an early edition of the Beatles known as the Quarrymen. Ronstadt made it all sound brand new again on this No. 11 smash, pushing ‘Hasten Down the Wind’ to platinum status — the third of what would become a ground-breaking five in a row in the ’70s.
‘Ooh Baby Baby’
The best-known song from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles served to extend Ronstadt’s run of success with Motown cover songs. In fact, with a notable assist from alto saxist David Sanborn, she rode “Ooh Baby Baby” all the way to No. 7 on the pop charts. The multi-format smash also hit with the easy listening, country and soul crowds as well.
‘When Will I Be Loved’
Ronstadt added just enough country-rock twang to her version of this Everly Brothers favorite to chart ‘When Will I Be Loved’ at No. 2 on the Billboard pop charts and all the way to the top of the country list. That was several spots higher than the original, which had the verses in a different order.
‘It’s So Easy’
Another song once associated with Buddy Holly, this growling Top 5 Ronstadt hit propelled her 1977 studio album to the top spot on Billboard for five consecutive weeks — and memorably dislodged Elvis Presley from the top of the country charts, too.
‘Poor Poor Pitiful Me’
Same album, much different approach. This time, Ronstadt doesn’t interpret a familiar rock or R&B track from the ’50s and ’60s. Instead, she covered a new composition from a then-largely unknown figure in Warren Zevon. She added a live version of ‘Poor Poor Pitiful Me’ to the 1978 movie ‘FM,’ on the way to recording a number of other Zevon cuts over the years.
‘Hurt So Bad’
A hit 1965 ballad for Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Little Anthony and the Imperials, this fresh take on ‘Hurts So Bad’ once again outperformed the original — going to No. 8 behind a sultry vocal from Ronstadt and a sizzling solo from guitarist Danny Kortchmar.
Nobody, to this point, had ever touched Roy Orbison’s original — a legendary moment of twilit loneliness that somehow only went to No. 29 back in 1963. Ronstadt, in one of the greatest displays of her powers as a interpretive genius, simply made ‘Blue Bayou’ her own. Ronstadt, with the Eagles’ Don Henley on backup vocals, elevates to a new-found, deeply emotional place — showing off a range that naturally covers several octaves on this platinum-selling, No. 3 track.
‘You’re No Good’
With her pained howl of “I’m gonna say it again!,” Ronstadt set a template on this No. 1 song for all of her subsequent ’70s success — even as guitarist Andrew Gold created the kind of atmospherics that made for an unforgettable moment in song. The country-rocking ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ would spend an amazing 51 weeks on the Billboard charts.