The Simple Dreams of Linda Ronstadt Captured in Print and On Film

By Dave Price

Many people believe that the rock stars of the late 60s and early 70s, fueled by a diet of drugs, alcohol and adoration, engaged in a decade-long series of wild, sex-filled parties after their sold-out concerts. Linda Ronstadt, one of the most popular singers of that period, admits that while the times could be wild, they were not the same for everyone. “Did I try things? You bet I did,” Ronstadt says. “But my addiction is to reading. I was the girl back in the hotel room reading and knitting”.

Actually reading is much more of the pastime with rockers than you might imagine, Ronstadt explained a few years ago at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC.. “A musician was the one who turned me on to Anna Karenina “The piano players always read; the drummers not so much. The piano player was the guy who had to calm things down. The lead guitar player was like the high-strung pitcher and the piano player was the catcher”.

She compared the life of a touring musician to that outlined in seafaring books like those ofHeart of Darkness author Joseph Conrad. “Those books capture how provincial a sailor’s life is. The harbors are the same all over the world. You hang with the same scabby old guys. You don’t go beyond the harbor. Being on tour is very much like that. There’s the bus, and the hotel, and the sound check, and the show, and the dinner, and then the after-dinner playing. And then you do the same thing the next day”.

Ronstadt, now 67 and battling the crippling effects of Parkinson’s disease that has dictated she will never sing in public again, was appearing at the festival to talk about her new memoir Simple Dreams, which focuses on her upbringing in a musical family in Tucson and the evolution of her career.

“My Dad sang these Mexican standards and folk songs,” she told the crowd of fans that packed the huge tent on the National Mall. “I just wanted to be a singer. I didn’t want to be a star”.

Ronstadt first came to national attention with the band the Stone Ponies and their 1967 hit “Different Drum”. She settled in the southern California area and began putting together a new band. She was able to recruit Don Henley on drums, Glen Frey and Bernie Leadon on guitar and Randy Meisner on bass. If those names sound familiar, it might be because those 4 went on to form The Eagles, one of the biggest selling bands of all-time. “They started playing (opening) shows together and regularly blowing me off the stage, but I didn’t care. It was great music and I was loving it,” Ronstadt said.

She says she is still amazed about those days in Los Angeles. When she was 18, she met a singer/songwriter who was one year younger. His name was Jackson Browne. “I was astonished that someone that young could write songs that well. And the 1st guitar player I met was Ry Cooder. He was up on stage playing his ass off like a demon”.

In the 70s, Ronstadt released a series of hits that showcased her versatility such as “Heat Wave”,”Blue Bayou,” “Tumbling Dice” and “You’re No Good”.

She also had a series of boyfriends, including current Oakland Mayor and former California Governor Jerry Brown. But despite the fact that she raised 2 adopted children, she never married. “I didn’t get married. It wasn’t important to me. I was a serial monogamist,” she said with a laugh. Although Ronstadt enjoyed her time in the rock limelight, she actually pulled herself out of the business to devote time to raising her 2 children, who are now 19 and 22.

Ronstadt said she was inspired to write her memoir after reading other such volumes like the one penned by fellow singer Roseanne Cash. “I thought I would like to write a thank you note,” she said. “I wasn’t the most talented singer, but I was one of the most diverse singers. I wanted to write about why these musical choices weren’t arbitrary. And they certainly weren’t career moves”.

She did a series of standards arranged by the late, great Nelson Riddle in the 1980s, predating such singers as Rod Stewart and his American songbook. She followed that with a return to her Mexican roots. “That was music I was passionate about. I had to sing it or I felt I would die,” she said.

There is a belief that all music stars with hit records make millions of dollars. “That just isn’t true,” Ronstadt said. She cited an article on her current book tour that portrayed her as squandering a fortune. “The writer wondered why I couldn’t afford a $20 million house. Oh gee (hitting herself in the head for emphasis), I must have snorted it”.

Ronstadt says the recording industry of her days is a thing of the past. “The record business I knew is completely gone. Now we don’t have any gatekeepers. They knew what a good record was”. Ronstadt says that while she is not against change, “the price we pay may be much too dear for what we lose”.

And while she describes herself as not particularly political, she does have strong feelings about the immigration debate. She contends that like much of America, the golden era of 20th Century music was nurtured by great American immigrant songwriters like George Gershwin. “It was completely created by the fact that we were a nation that was welcoming to immigrants,” Ronstadt said. “We allowed them to come in and find their place. We allowed them to prosper, which is what people from Mexico and Guatemala and El Salvador and Liberia and Libya and all these people would be doing now if we let them. We need to help them find their place. “I don’t know why this country doesn’t learn.”

Of course, she is asked how she feels about the Parkinson’s that has robbed her of her singing voice and forces her to steady herself with the aid of 2 walking sticks. Her succinct answer – no regrets. “I had a great career. I had an unusually long run at the trough,” she says.

This summer, a praised documentary on the life and career of Ronstadt was released. You can check out the trailer and a review below.

To read David Browne’s review of the documentary, click here

Notes on Woodstock 2019 – Day 1

By Dave Price

First Contact 

Chatted with two fellow travelers this morning on the road to Woodstock 2019, the 3-day 50thanniversary of the historic music festival at the original site, at our Hampton Inn, which is about 30 miles from Bethel Woods. I assumed they were headed there when I saw they were both carrying clear plastic totes. Concert rules specified that you could only take such carrying cases onto the Museum and amphitheater grounds.

The two women were from Houston, Texas. One had been at the original festival (she had also seen the Beatles live, but that was another story) and she was bringing her best friend along to help relive the memories and make new ones.

However, she admitted to being a little worried. Festival officials had announced that no one would be allowed near the property, which is now listed on the national Historic Registry, unless they had a special pass permit, which had been mailed to ticket holders. There were three separate concerts scheduled for the three days and each required a special access permit in addition to a ticket. She had left Houston with three days of tickets, but only two permits. The one for the Ringo Starr concert hadn’t arrived. However, two days prior to the start of the festival Bethel Woods officials had emailed out a notice of what to do and where to goif you hadn’t received permits or tickets. “I won’t feel good until I have that permit in my hand,” she said. I gave her my card and said to contact me if she ran into any problems. She didn’t. So I assume she made it Woodstock without incident. 

On the Road Again.

Shortly after noon, Judy and I pulled out of our hotel, for the back-country ride to Woodstock. We SIRIed the directions. (How did I get anywhere before SIRI?).  To say the route was circuitous, winding, and up and down and up and down again does a disservice to all those descriptors. There were also long stretches where there was no sign of human habitation. I made note to find a different route back to the Hampton Inn after the concert. If was fun riding these roads in daylight, but I didn’t relish doing the same after midnight.

First Signs of Hippie Culture

About two miles from the site, we saw our first evidence of the reunion. A group of about 20 families, all dressed in the colorful garb of the late 60s and early ‘70s, had set up an impromptu campground. Many of them flashed us the peace sign as we drove slowly past the encampment.

Woodstock Straight Ahead Down This Road 

During the 1969 festival, there were reports of 17-mile long traffic jams, with thousands of music lovers abandoning their vehicles and walking miles to the hear the music, and in the parlance of the times “dig the vibes”. As we approached the single-entrance road, there were less than 17 cars in front of us. We pointed to our permit hanging from our mirror and the county sheriff officer waved us on through. We parked in Lot E-3. Woodstock 50 and whatever it would hold was only about a half-mile of walking away. As we ambled, we noticed the look of our fellow Woodstockians. For many of the women, it was peasant blouses, loose long shirts, fringe, and flowers-in-their-hair. For men, it was mostly tie-dye or music t-shirts. Judy was dressed as Judy always dresses in Judy style. I wore faded jeans and a white with blue and gold lettered t-shirt my two grandkids had given me bearing the slogan “I May Be Old, But St Least I Saw All the Good Bands”. Throughout the day, several festival-goers, when they saw my t-shirt offered up some variation of the comment, “Man, ain’t that the truth”.

And So It Begins

The first thing on the grounds we encountered was a small group showcasing a replica of a restored, painted VW bus they were calling The Woodstock Bus, which they had shipped from California for the festival. They had some great stories and I promised I would come back to interview them before the festival was over.

As we prepared to enter the Museum, I noticed Woodstock Museum curator Wade Lawrence instructing people where to go. I had met Wade on a Flower Power music cruise a few years ago. I had let him know we were coming to Woodstock 2019 to gather information for my next book and I wanted to chat with him if we got a chance. Wade acknowledged me, but quickly added, “I guess you can see that right now wouldn’t be the best time”. He was definitely correct.

The Afternoon

Since it was now after 2 p.m., Judy and I were hungry and we decided to make lunch our first stop. Now, the first festival in 1969 was plagued by food shortages, but it was clear that wouldn’t be the case 50 years later. In addition to the museum café, there were food booths set up all over the grounds. Much of the food offered had a festival-appropriate name. There was the Hendrix Hamburger, the Santana chicken sandwich, and the Hog Farm pulled-pork bowl. We were first joined at our table by a lone traveler who had decided to stop on his drive between his two homes – one in Martha’s Vineyard and one in Miami. While we were chatting, we were joined by a mother and her teen-aged son, who was a huge classic rock fan. He sported a Beatles t-shirt and admitted to being excited about seeing his first Beatle in performance. Then two couples from San Diego sat down with us. As we were offering our back stories, we discovered that one husband had worked for years in the U.S. Patent office which was located in our home community of Crystal City and he and his wife, who worked with AOL founder Steve Case, had lived in Old Town Alexandria, just 3 Metro stops from our current apartment. (Small world indeed, as they say)

After lunch, Judy and I spent 2 hours strolling the grounds and visiting the various booths and displays located there. There were two stages set up where live local music was performed throughout the afternoon. Judy spent much of her time in the artisan tents, while my favorite stop was the writer’s tent where I talked with a half dozen writers who had written books dealing in some way with Woodstock.

Of course, you can’t consider Woodstock without thinking rain and mud. I had mixed feelings about the rain. While it would be cool to say you survived the rain at Woodstock (even if it was 50 years later) and make for a good tale, I didn’t really want to be drenched before the concert. (I wasn’t worried about the show because our seats for Ringo were under cover). But of course, that would not be a decision for me decide. As we were talking to friendly recovering volunteers at the Recovery Unplugged tent (one was a former Jersey policeman), festival officials came by and announced that the weather was calling for a severe storm with hail to pass through the area in a short time, meaning that all tents should be pulled down and all items stored safely. Judy and I decided to seek shelter from the predicted storm by using this time to check out the actual museum, which we had visited once before several years ago. It was great then and the fact that we were actually seeing it again exactly 50 years to the week when the original festival was held, made it even more special this time. After we emerged, we discovered that the threatened, violent storm had only passed through the area as some brief showers. (I guess that “no rain, no rain, no rain, no rain” chant works better in the 21stCentury than it did in the previous one. After dinner (for me it was the Hendrix hamburger), we headed to the amphitheater for the big event of the first day – a concert by Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band, with opening acts the latest version of Blood, Sweat and Tears (which, in its second grouping had played at the original Woodstock festival) and Edgar Winter, who had performed two songs there with his deceased Texas bluesman brother, Johnny, in 1969. 

The Concert

Up first, Blood, Sweat and Tears provided the perfect dilemma for today’s fans of 1960s music – was it the songs or the original artists performing them that we most loved. There is not one member of BS&T who played at Woodstock and on their initial records now in the band. However, with today’s powerful, sophisticated sound systems, many of the songs sound much better live now than they did back then. That was definitely the case with BS&T, who I first saw in the fall of 1969, and on this night, recreated the performance from their set at the original Woodstock. For me, that meant they played two of my favorite Blood, Sweat and Tears tunes – “More and More” (their opener) and “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know”. (And, just in case you want to know my third unplayed-on-this-night favorite, it’s “I Can’t Quit Her”.

Edgar Winter, on keyboards and sax, was backed by a talented and versatile three-piece band, for his 45-minute set. One of the highlights was the classic “Tobacco Road” which he had played with his brother Johnny in 1969. Another was his brother’s signature song “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo,” which Edgar introduced by saying, “here’s a song my brother would be playing about right now if he were here tonight”. 

Finally, it was Ringo ‘s turn. And I mean, really, what’s to say. He’s a Beatle, one of the only two remaining with us on Earth. He’s 79 years old, but you would never know it from his energy on stage. And he’s Ringo Starr and all that name implies. For more than a decade, Ringo has been touring with friends in various configurations of his All-Star Band. The group plays tunes Ringo sang with the Beatles, a few of his solo hits, and songs the members of his current lineup made famous in their own groups. Here is his set list for Woodstock 50:

Matchbox

It Don’t come easy

Evil ways

Rosanna

Pick Up the Pieces

Down Under

Boys

Don’t Pass Me By

Yellow Submarine

Black Magic Woman

You’re Sixteen 

Anthem

Work to Do

Oye Como Va

I Wanna Be You’re Man

Who Can It Be Now?

Hold the Line

Photograph

Act Naturally

With A Little Help From My Friends/Give Peace A Chance

And given the history of Woodstock, how could you find a better first-day closer than “With a Little Help from My Friends and Give Peace a Chance?” 

Springsteen Songs Spark Coming of Age Film

By Chris Jordan, Asbury Park Press

Baby, we were Born to Run — to Luton. Yes, Luton. In the United Kingdom. That’s where the improbable, but maybe not so improbable, story of the impact of Bruce Springsteen’s music on a South Asian Muslim teenager named Javed growing up in ’80s England takes place in the new movie musical “Blinded by the Light.” 

Javed, played with heart by Viveik Kalra, uses the Boss’ music to get the girl, stand up to his dad, take on the bullies and ultimately as a vessel of self-awareness. It’s based on the memoir of journalist and Springsteen fan Sarfraz Manzoor, titled “Greetings from Bury Park.”

It’s a charmer. A coming of age in the ’80s movie that’s kind of like John Hughes meets Springsteen in Thatcher England.

To continue reading this story, click here.

Javed (Viveik Kalra) and Eliza (Nell Williams) dance in “Blinded by the Light.” (Photo: Nick Wall)

How Writer Got Springsteen’s Attention

By Hardeep Phull

In his 1984 track “No Surrender,” Bruce Springsteen famously wrote, “We learned more from a three-minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school.” Sarfraz Manzoor knows that feeling.

Growing up as one of four siblings in the grim, post-industrial British town of Luton (30 miles north of London) during the 1980s, Manzoor was caught between the cultural expectations of his overbearing Pakistani-immigrant mother and father — Rasool Bibi and Mohammed Manzoor — and his own desires to escape the everyday racism that was part of his stifling surroundings.

As a 16-year-old, Manzoor faced that lonely battle, and school wasn’t giving him any solutions. However, it was the Boss who gave him the spark that started a fire. And the result, all these years later, is the film “Blinded by the Light,” in theaters Friday.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Sarfraz Manzoor and “The Boss.”

Top 10 Best Uses of Springsteen Music in Film

Bruce Springsteen has not just made his mark on the musical world, but on the cinematic one as well. An Academy Award for Best Original Song, countless appearances on soundtracks, cameo appearances in movies and documentaries about his work; Springsteen lives up to his moniker – The Boss. With “Blinded by the Light” opening this week and celebrating his life/music, what better time is there to look at the man’s contributions to cinema?

Below you will see ten of the best uses of Springsteen and his music in cinema to date. Honorable mentions include “Dead Man Walking” (for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song) “Long Shot,” as well as “Ricki and the Flash.” Special citation goes to “The Indian Runner” from Sean Penn, as it’s based on the Springsteen song “Highway Patrolman.” It also goes without saying that the documentary “Springsteen & I,” as well as the Netflix special “Springsteen on Broadway” deserve a shout out as well.

To continue reading this article, click here.

David Crosby: Remember My Name

Last Monday night, Washington Post movie critic Anne Hornaday joined me for my presentation at the Smithsonian where we discussed the impact the 1970 documentary on Woodstock had on the legacy of the most-famous mud and myth rock festival of the 1960s.

Hornaday was a huge music fan (especially of the Who) before she became a film critic, which may partially explain why her reviews of music documentaries are so insightful. Of course, the main reason for her success is that Anne is a great analyzer and a powerfully descriptive writer no matter what type of film she is reviewing.

Tonight, I saw the new film David Crosby: Remember My Name and here is Anne’s review to help you better understand the film if you should decide to see it.

By Ann Hornaday

Washington Post Movie critic

Rating:     (3 stars)

“David Crosby: Remember My Name” was one of the breakout hits at Sundance this year, and understandably so: In this film, the pioneering folk-rock musician — who will turn 78 in a couple of weeks — emerges less as a lion in winter than a tiger in full attack mode, as often as not against himself.

Haloed by a nimbus of cottony white hair, still sporting the walrus mustache he made chic in the 1960s, Crosby presents a reflective, irascible, observant and irresistibly candid figure in a documentary that ostensibly chronicles one of his many comeback tours but becomes something far more introspective. “Remember My Name” joins a cohort of nostalgic music movies that have glutted theaters this summer, and it spares few musical pleasure points: When Crosby reminisces about forming the Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, those glorious harmonies burst forth with the same exhilarating abandon baby boomers thrilled to when they heard them for the first time.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Heading to Woodstock – 50 Years On

By Dave Price

It was music and it was magic. It was a muddy mess elevated to modern-day myth. It was Melanie, Mountain, and a multitude of hippies, peaceniks, flower children, and freaks. It was mind-blowing and momentous, and it became a milestone for the ages. It was Woodstock. And I wasn’t there. 

Now, at the time, I had a good reason for not going.  Two-and-a-half weeks before Woodstock, the first three-day rock festival on the East Coast was staged just a few miles from Atlantic City, New Jersey, at the Atlantic City Racetrack. There, 50,000 fans attended the Atlantic City Pop Festival and I was one of them. During those three days, I saw Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, Joe Cocker, Iron Butterfly, Canned Heat, and Joni Mitchell, all of whom were scheduled to perform at Woodstock. I also saw, among others, The Mothers of Invention, Procul Harum, the Byrds, B.B. King, Chicago, Three Dog Night, the Chambers Brothers, Dr. John the Night Tripper, and Little Richard. So, when friends from my South Jersey hometown asked me to join them on a journey to Woodstock, I declined. 

But I didn’t let the fact that I didn’t go to Woodstock keep me from writing about the festival just one month after it happened. Woodstock was the subject of my first freshman out-of-class essay I wrote in September of 1969 for Villanova University English Department Chairman Dr. Robert Wilkinson. Dr. Wilkinson deemed my essay cogent, informative, and insightful, but awarded me a grade of D since it contained two spelling errors and two grammatical mistakes. (He was a truly tough evaluator and I hope you will be easier on my books). Despite that crappy start, Dr. Wilkinson eventually became my life-long mentor and was one of the three main influencers (my mother Mary Louise Ivins Price and my high school journalism teacher Jack Gillespie being the others) who led me to enter the worlds of teaching and writing. 

And now, 50 years later, I am returning to Woodstock as a subject for my writing. The festival, in both its original year and its 50th anniversary, is serving as a main linking event in a three-book series I am writing examining the past, present, and future of the music we now call classic rock. In this book, Come Together: How the Baby Boomers, the Beatles, and a Youth Counterculture Combined to Create the Music of the Woodstock GenerationI’m attempting to guide readers through the post-World War II years of the rhythm and blues and country and western music that set the stage for rock & roll, the early Elvis years of rock, the Beatles invasion of America, the psychedelic ’67 Summer of Love, a tumultuous 1968, and the historic festival at Woodstock one year later.  

The next book in the series, What’s That Sound? –  25 Genres and 50 Artists Who Helped Make the Music of the Woodstock Generation will pick up the story at the three-day anniversary celebration held in 2019 at the site of the original Woodstock festival. Then we’ll explore the music of artists who performed at the Woodstock music festival, the Atlantic City Pop Festival, and later in the ’70s, all of which led to the creation of what we today call classic rock. The final volume – tentatively titled Rock of Agers: Why Do the Classic Sounds of the Woodstock Generation Continue to Resonate So Loudly Today? – will show you how you can experience the entire classic rock story by sailing on four floating Woodstock-festival-like music-themed cruises. The book then offers six chapters examining the variety of ways the sounds and legacy of classic rock are being passed on to new listeners.  

So start saving your money. I think the books will be worth buying and I hope you will, too.