Hello, everybody. I’m Glenn Frey and it is my great pleasure tonight to induct Linda Ronstadt into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’d like to start by saying it’s about time. It was my selfish wish that Linda would have been inducted in 1998 with the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, the Mamas and Papas and Santana. But that time has passed, the time is now, and Linda’s music and legacy give us so much to celebrate and contemplate.
In the late-1960s, after playing in various folk groups in her hometown of Tuscon, Arizona, Linda moved to Los Angeles and became a member of the Stone Poneys. They made three albums together and had one hit, ‘Different Drum.’ When the group broke up in 1968, ready or not, Linda became a solo artist. I first met Linda in 1970 at the Troubadour bar. For my part, it was love at first sight. There was just one problem: a guitar-slinging, love-rustler from Amarillo, Texas named John David Souther. He beat me to the punch, which would become a pattern throughout our careers — thank God he never met my wife.
So Linda and I, we became friends, and in the spring of 1971, she hired me and a singing drummer from Linden, Texas named Don Henley to play in her back-up band. From the first rehearsal, I felt we were working on a style of music none of us had ever heard before. Two years later, people called it “country-rock.” While touring with Linda that summer, Don and I told her that we wanted to start our own band, and she, more than anyone else, helped us put together the Eagles. That’s right. And later, she gave our careers a big shot in the arm by recording our song, ‘Desperado.’
Between 1969 and 1973, she made four solo albums. They were all really good, but they were laying the groundwork for what would be her breakthrough album, ‘Heart Like a Wheel,’ produced by Peter Asher. 1974 was the first of many magic years in Linda’s career. She found herself in a place that all artists dream of, when the producer and the material, the singer and the players all come together and something otherworldly happens in the recording studio, This was ‘Heart Like a Wheel,’ an album for all-time. The haunting title track, Linda’s deceptively simple arrangement of ‘Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,’ the Hank Williams classic, ‘I Can’t Help It if I’m Still in Love With You’ and the smash ‘You’re No Good,’ kept this album in the charts for 51 weeks. And Linda became a star.
Peter and Linda went on to record five more albums, choosing material from songwriters she loved and admired. Songs like ‘Love Is a Rose,’ ‘Tracks of My Tears,’ ‘Heat Wave,’ ‘That’ll Be the Day,’ ‘It’s So Easy,’ ‘Blue Bayou,’ ‘Poor Poor Pitiful Me,’ ‘Tumblin’ Dice,’ ‘Back in the U.S.A.,’ ‘Ooh Baby Baby,’ ‘Blowin’ Away’ and ‘When Will I Be Loved.’
By the end of the 1970s, she was known as “The Queen of Country-Rock.” Uncomfortable with that label — or any other label, for that matter — she longed to break out and try things beyond rock and roll. She went to New York to sing the role of Mabel in Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘Pirates of Penzance.’ She knocked it out of Central Park, and was nominated for a Tony.
While living and working in New York, she decided to make a jazz album — a standards album, if you will. She teamed with legendary arranger Nelson Riddle and made not one, but three records, each one an impeccable work of musical art. When the first album, ‘What’s New,’ was released, it sold three million copies and spent 81 weeks on the Billboard album chart.
For the longest time, she wanted to sing and record with two dear friends, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. They called their partnership ‘Trio,’ and they made two gorgeous records together. When the first Trio album was released, it was certified platinum, it won a Grammy and a CMA.
Always reaching, always stretching, Linda had yet another dream. She wanted to record an album of Mexican songs, sung entirely in Spanish. Her record company freaked out. But she gathered the finest musicians in their field and recorded ‘Canciones de Mi Padre,’ the songs of my father. Upon release in 1987, it went double platinum…in a day. It sold millions of records worldwide and is the biggest-selling non-English language album in American recording history.
I wish I had the time to share with you the fascinating stories, you know, of all the talented people she’s worked with over the years. They’re all part of her music family — Linda’s always been about family.
Linda Ronstadt recorded 31 albums. She sold over 100 million records and had a career that spanned five decades. She has been a shining example and a true inspiration to every woman who ever stood in front of a microphone and sang her heart out. And through it all, she remains nothing but authentic. You see, Linda lives in a place where art trumps commerce, where self-exploration trumps self-exploitation, where hard work and integrity trump fame and failure. She never wanted to be a star, she just wanted to make good music.
Although Linda is now retired and does not travel anymore, she sends you all her very best wishes and a heartfelt “Thank you.” She is one of the greatest voices of all-time, and she shared her voice with beauty, grace and love. So on behalf of your family and your friends, your peers and music fans from all over the world, it’s my honor to say, “Welcome to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Linda Ronstadt!”
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