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AARP Interview

Heart-to-Heart With Linda Ronstadt

The boomer songbird looks back on her storied music career — and ahead to life with the new reality of Parkinson’s disease

Linda Ronstadt (John Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images)

Linda Ronstadt onstage at the 2008 ALMA Awards. The following year she gave her final concert and retired. — John Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images

Q: You live in San Francisco now, with your children. How are they doing?

A: There are two houses on my property — one tiny little cottage and one even tinier cottage — so I’m in one and my daughter, Mary [22], is in the other. She’s into art. She’s very creative — she sculpts, builds, draws and paints things. My son, Carlos [19], is interested in physics. He’s moving to Santa Cruz with his girlfriend in September, so I’ll be an empty nester.

Q: You famously dated Jerry Brown the first time he was governor of California (1975-1983), and you mention him in Simple Dreams. Are you still friends?

A: Oh, yeah. I hear from him all the time. He’s a good guy.

Q: Is he still as tight with a dollar as you paint him in the book?

A: [Laughs] He came by my house once when I was leaving to have dinner with Rosemary Clooney, and he invited himself to dinner — typical Jerry. Then he said, “Wait — we gotta take her something.” Somebody had sent me a big bouquet of coral roses. Jerry sees them and says, “We’ll just take these.” It took me years to admit to Rosemary Clooney that Jerry Brown had brought her secondhand flowers.

"There are people I care about passionately, but I don’t wish I still lived with them, or that I’d married them. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have left, you know? I just wasn’t the marrying kind."

Q: George Lucas was in your life in a serious way for a while. Are you still friends? Would you consider doing something creative with him?

A: We’re still friends, but we never mixed that with business. He just got married — his wife is lovely, I can tell — and he has a baby. At this age! [Laughs] So there are people I care about passionately, but I don’t wish I still lived with them, or that I’d married them. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have left, you know? [Laughs] I just wasn’t the marrying kind.

Q: Your book mentions many folks flattened by the music business — Brian Wilson, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, for starters ...

A: Brian had tremendous difficulties in his childhood, but I just love him, and I think he’s so resilient. I’ve always known Brian to be a gentle, lovely person with an incredible amount of talent. I think he was one of the great geniuses of American pop music, along with Gershwin and those guys.

I didn’t love Jim Morrison. There was something very reptilian about him. And I didn’t care for his singing, but his band! The Doors were fantastic.

As for Janis, it was impossible not to love her. She was a sweet, sincere person, and she truly loved the music. Not only was she passionate about the blues, but she had great respect for the people whose shoulders she stood on, which I appreciate: We’re all standing on somebody’s shoulders, aren’t we?

Q: And then, of course, your backing band fledged out as the Eagles. Did you realize at the time how great they were?

A: Oh, yeah! [Laughs] That would have been hard to miss! I already knew Glenn Frey’s work and thought he was good, and when we found out how well Don Henley could sing, we were just amazed. Don and Glenn started writing songs together, and they were so clear and so good they became their own little hit factory.

Next page: Linda's next steps. »

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