She is known as the “First Lady of Rock,” and she was a trailblazing singer-songwriter whose unmistakable mezzo-soprano voice could be heard on chart-topping hits like “You’re No Good” and “Blue Bayou.”
Linda Ronstadt, on the other hand, no longer sings, at least not in a way that her fans can hear.
During a recent interview with Maria Shriver, the 76-year-old claimed to be able to sing in her head.
Ronstadt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013 after years of vocal difficulties. She eventually discovered she had progressive supranuclear palsy, a condition similar to Parkinson’s disease.
The Mayo Clinic describes the rare disease, caused by the degeneration of brain cells that regulate thinking, movement, and coordination, as having many of the same symptoms as Parkinson’s disease and dementia. And such symptoms worsen over time.
Because of her illness, Ronstadt could not sing aloud, leaving her with only the music in her head.
Singing in her head was “not quite the same,” she said.
Especially since she doesn’t always choose the melody when it comes to music that only she can hear.
“Sometimes I choose the music, and sometimes my brain chooses the song,” Ronstadt says.
She is irritated even more by the fact that these are songs she would never choose for herself.
“My brain chooses the worst music,” she explained. “It just plays loudly in my head, sounding like mediocre Christmas carols.”
Ronstadt, whose albums have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, recalls a time when she could still sing but couldn’t get a record label’s attention. In the 1980s, she decided to release a Spanish-language album as a tribute to her Mexican roots.
“He begged me not to do this.” She recalled, “What’s left of your career will be destroyed. And I simply couldn’t hear him. I had the impression that Mexicans were invisible in this culture, that we were marginalized.”
“They are expected to be in the kitchen washing dishes, preparing meals for you, or cleaning your home. They do not appear to have another context, however.”
“Canciones de Mi Padre,” a collection of traditional Mariachi music, was her first of several Spanish-language albums, released in 1987.
The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2021.