For nearly all of her 73 years, Linda Ronstadt’s life has been about music. From her earliest childhood when she learned vibrato from her brother, to the day in 2009 when she retired, after Parkinson’s disease had begun to rob her of her astounding voice, she lived to sing.
“We sang at the dinner table, we sang in the car, we sang with our hands in the dishwater,” Linda has recalled of growing up with her musically inclined family in Tucson, Arizona. “Now I can’t even sing in the shower!”
But Linda has found other ways to express herself, and she is no less dedicated to music. A new documentary, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, premiering September 6, looks back at her career — during which she won 10 Grammy Awards and sold more than 100 million records.
“She is still very focused on the music, and that was really what drove her,” Jeffrey Friedman, who directed the film with Rob Epstein, exclusively tells Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now.
It was that focus that prompted Linda to grab the reins of her career, explore new genres, join forces with stars like Dolly Parton and even put marriage on the back burner. “If I were going to choose something to do, it would not be to stand up in front of a lot of people,” Linda once admitted, “but I love to sing. I love music. So at some point you do whatever you have to do to do music.
Linda had been surrounded by music from the start. “My dad had a lovely tenor baritone voice,” she has said of father Gilbert Ronstadt, whose musician–cattle rancher father had emigrated from Mexico to Tucson. Growing up on the ranch, Linda soaked up her family’s music, along with songs she heard on the radio, from country rock to American standards, opera and beyond. “There was a lot of music going on in [our] house,” she remembered.
It wasn’t surprising that she became a singer. “Linda could literally sing anything,” says friend and musical partner Dolly, with whom Linda and Emmylou Harris harmonized on their No. 1 album, Trio, in 1987. That album had been seen as a risk at the time, but as one of the few women who could sell out rock arenas, Linda made strides for women in the music industry. “At a certain point she really took control of her own choices,” says director Rob. “She was charting her own destiny.”
The same was true for her personal life. Though she dated former California governor Jerry Brown, George Lucas and Jim Carrey, she never wed. “I was not cut out for marriage,” Linda once said, admitting she used to tell herself she was too young. “But this was when I was like 45, so I guess that means I’m just really immature!”
Still, the mother of two grown adopted kids, Mary and Carlos, says she’s friendly with her exes. “Jerry was here for Thanksgiving,” she revealed recently.
Parkinson’s may have silenced her singing voice, but Linda still has harmony in her life. “I got to live a lot of my dreams,” she once said, “and I feel lucky about it.”
For more on your favorite celebs, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!