It’s been a musical few weeks for me, and the old cotton commercial came to mind: “Cotton, the fabric of our lives.” For me, it’s music, not cotton. I can’t sing, and I can’t dance, but listening to music is a must. That’s why my husband gave me one last portable CD player last Christmas, so I could listen to my favorite CDs in my home office.
When I heard about the limited run of “Linda Rondstadt: The Sound of my Voice,” I had to see it. I wasn’t disappointed, and I rate it a must-see film. I’ve enjoyed Linda Rondstadt’s music on vinyl, cassette tape, and CD. I recognized almost all of the songs, was happily reminded of music I’d forgotten, and learned a few new things as well.
Who knew that Don Henley and Glen Frey first met when they toured with her? I had a vague idea she starred on Broadway in “Pirates of Penzance” and was intrigued by scenes from that performance. Actor Kevin Kline recalled being skeptical of Rondstadt’s ability to act in a musical but was soon charmed by the power and range of her voice.
Singer Jackson Browne described her as an auteur. In the movie world, the word means a “filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie.” For Linda Rondstadt, I interpret it to mean she took songs that others wrote or performed and made them her own. That made me think of Frank Sinatra who was famous for his musical phrasing. Singer and songwriter Karla Bonoff expressed a similar sentiment about her songs recorded by Rondstadt, most notably “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me.”
It’s not news that Rondstadt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which impacted her ability to sing — she played her last show in 2009. Suffice it to say I cried as I watched the ending. For me, it was a powerful tale.
We’ve also enjoyed Ken Burns’ “Country Music” on PBS. There are too many talented artists to name, but I’ve been most struck by Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. I guess I never realized what a powerful performer and influencer Johnny Cash was — giving breaks to the likes of Kristofferson and promoting singers like Bob Dylan.
Kristofferson is a prolific songwriter but has never considered himself a good singer. Somehow though, his gravelly voice works. Most of us know he wrote “Me and Bobby McGee,” but he’s written countless other hits like “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” and “For the Good Times.”
When I heard Larry Gatlin speak of Kristofferson’s way with words, I was fascinated. I knew he was a Rhodes Scholar in English Literature, but listening closely to his lyrics brought home how that background informed his writing. As Gatlin and also Charlie Pride emphasized, no one else puts words together the way Kristofferson does.
When I watch the series again, other performers may stand out for me. Perhaps these two did because I became aware of them in my teens and 20s — my formative years. Willie and Waylon are also favorites from that time.
Rest assured, I’ll be watching several segments again along with the accompanying concert, all of which we’ve taped. And, next year, when the Rondstadt film is shown on CNN, it too will be recorded and enjoyed. For now, I’m making do with my CDs.
Kathy is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her books, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch” and “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,” at the Enchanted Forest and on Amazon. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/, and/or read her blogs at https://theinkpenn.blogspot.com.