No. 23: Linda Ronstadt – Country’s Most Powerful Women of All Time
Linda Ronstadt was one of the first true multi-genre female superstars, and her impact on country music is so great that she ranks No. 23 on Taste of Country's list of Country Music's 30 Most Powerful Women of All Time.
Ronstadt was a Kelly Clarkson-sized star before Clarkson was even born, dominating the charts across several genres in the '70s and into the '80s. She charted her first country hit in 1974 with "Silver Threads and Golden Needles," which reached No. 20, and scored her first No. 1 country song with "When Will I Be Loved" in 1975. Covers of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day" and Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou" are among Ronstadt's other country hits, with the latter featuring vocals from Don Henley, who met Ronstadt when he was playing in her backing group. That core group later splintered off and became the Eagles.
During a time when she was the biggest female artist in rock music, Ronstadt continued to have hits in the country charts as well. A cover of the Hank Williams classic "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)" is another of her country hits, and indeed, many of Ronstadt's biggest hits were covers of classic hits, earning her a label as one of the best song interpreters of her generation.
She scored her last solo country Top 10 with "I Never Will Marry" in 1978 and went on to a long-lived career that spans many different genres of popular music, returning to country in 1987 in a project with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Their Trio album debuted at No. 1 on the country album charts. "Wildflowers"’ was a Top 10 single, and the album won Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal at the 1988 Grammy Awards. The trio also released Trio II in 1999. Parkinson's disease later robbed Ronstadt of her singing voice and forced her into retirement.
Ronstadt is one of a handful of the most technically accomplished vocalists in country music history, with a voice that sounded good in country, rock, pop, Latin music and even on Broadway. Her versatility, ironically, is part of the reason she doesn't place even higher in the list of the most powerful women in country music, since her time specifically in the country genre was relatively brief.
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