COURTESY CAPITOL RECORDS
Linda Ronstadt, above, from the cover of her 2004 album, "Hummin' to Myself."
Silver threads golden moments
After 35 years, Linda Ronstadt returns to sing in Diamond Head Crater
HEY LINDA, remember me? One of a thousand hot, dusty teenagers inside Diamond Head crater 35 years ago, gaping open-mouthed as you ripped the roof off the stage with "Silver Threads and Golden Needles"? I remember you. You were barefoot. Me too!
Linda Ronstadt almost, but not quite, turns on the polite demurrer -- she has good manners, this woman -- then laughs at the silliness of remembering the details of one gig so long ago.
Featuring: Linda Ronstadt, Steve Miller, WAR, Yvonne Elliman, Kenny Endo, Na Leo and the Honolulu Symphony
Onstage: 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday
Place: Diamond Head Crater
Admission: $125 ($135 to $175 reserved seating)
Note: Free parking and shuttles; no walk-ins
But she remembers the baking heat, the choking dust, the dazed, blissful kids: "I remember it very vaguely -- it was so hot and dusty. Eventually we went up some little mountain stream near the road and swam in a pool where a waterfall was. That was really nice. I really don't remember anything else about it."
One fights the temptation to let Ronstadt know that the location was almost certainly Jackass Ginger. After all, when someone has had such a long and successful career and, by dint of sheer talent, makes one fond of her and the musical memories she has engendered, well, you want to protect her from information overload.
Let's see. Folk rock, country rock, jazz, blues, country, standards, big bands, opera, mariachi, R&B, new wave -- she's the American music catalog rolled into one set of pipes. Not to mention that longish period in the 1970s when she was the closest thing we had to a rock goddess; Patti Smith was too scary, and Debbie Harry was still waiting tables.
Now pushing 60, the girl can't help it. She's still in the game, still on her own terms. Even when she told herself to retire, the wonder of music kept drawing her back. As well as everyday expenses.
"Since I had children about 14 years ago, I cut back hugely," explained Ronstadt. "In fact I actually meant to quit. It was sort of like turning a juggernaut around! Things kept happening that I wanted to do, so I confined myself to only recording for a number of years. And then I found out how much it costs to send kids to college! So I figured I'd tour a little this year."
COURTESY CAPITOL RECORDS
Linda Ronstadt in the 1970s when she sang at the Sunshine Crater Festival.
Her most recent album, a couple of years old, is "Hummin' to Myself," which is intimate jazz standards, some of which will be heard at this weekend's Crater Celebration.
Some of the pop music she's known for "didn't mature with me. I like to sing grown-up music. There's a lot of stuff I left behind and some things I just can't -- I find audiences won't allow it. But I've tried to always keep the music growing and keeping it fresh.
"Everything I have tried, I first heard in the living room in Tucson where I was growing up. My grandmother was playing opera, and my mother was playing Gilbert and Sullivan, and my older brother was a soloist for the World Class Boy Choir and my sister was playing enclaves really loud on the radio. My dad was singing Mexican songs and Frank Sinatra songs. I just learned in a very, very musically eclectic atmosphere."
One thing she misses about the good ol' days is radio, then the only link to the burgeoning mystery of pop music. "The great American radio was a thing to behold in the '50s! We could get these big transmitter stations from Mexico, all these rhythm-and-blues and 'Louisiana Hayride' songs. Radio is still my favorite of all the electronic media. I don't like television. I never got into it. I don't even own one."
This fascination with all forms of music -- "eclectic-mania!" she laughs -- has led Ronstadt down some pretty obscure trails. She even became a recordist of the angelic, antique, otherworldly instrument called the armonica, or "glass harmonica," producing the gorgeous classical album "Cristal."
"It was one of my favorite things I've ever done, actually," said Ronstadt. "Mozart absolutely loved the armonica. ... It's just not made to be experienced as anything but in a room with a beautiful ambient sound. It seems odd even to listen to it in electric light. It seems to be made for candlelight, and you've got to be in a good room with it in order to really hear it. We were putting microphones under sofas and in corners and behind doors. It was crazy."
Well, you get the idea. Ask Ronstadt about music and it's like pulling her string. Her current project, due in July, is even more difficult to characterize. She's calling it "American art songs" for now.
"We've been recording in Louisiana and having a really good time ... taking these really virtuoso traditional players and adding a context. Sometimes we tend to be at the range of a string quartet, cello and viola and vertical bass. (It's) not quite as refined as pop music or even classical music, though it sort of fits in there. Sort of like German lieder. I would call it 'Americana,' 'cause it's traditional. Although there's one Parisian-French song. And some Cajun-French songs. And some songs written by British songwriter Richard Thompson, so maybe 'Americana' doesn't work, either!"
Another "Trio" album is not in the works, although Ronstadt does sing with Emmylou Harris "quite a lot. She's a very good sister-friend. I just love her and we always sing together."
Linda Ronstadt has long been fascinated by all forms of music, from pop and country to new wave and mariachi.
The band she's bringing with her is versed in her Nelson Riddle, jazz-standards groove, as well as able to pump it up for her '70s rockers. "I have a band that, incredibly, can actually play both styles of music, which is really hard to do. They're really great players."
We have to ask -- Ronstadt was in the news a while ago when the manager of the Aladdin in Las Vegas claimed that during a concert there, she mentioned liberal filmmaker Michael Moore and the audience spontaneously rioted, shrieking in horror at the notion of a musician with a liberal bias.
"That was a Clear Channel venue, and Clear Channel is extremely right wing and I think they wanted to be unhappy," recalled Ronstadt. "It was SO not a big deal. The last encore, I said, 'This is dedicated to Michael Moore.' Everybody went, 'Yay!' And some people went, 'Boo!' And that was literally all that happened, nor was I thrown out of there. This woman came backstage and actually tried to keep me there. I thought she had lost her mind, a person with a problem who had gone off her medication. At that point I left and that was that. I had no idea there was any problem until two days later."
So, what does this radical revolutionary do when she's not making music or parenting?
"I like to read and I like to knit," she giggled. "Am I so boring or what? I like to go to the ballet and the opera. That's about the only thing that gets me out at night."
How about a return swim at the waterfall or the beach?
"I don't go into the water. I don't have anything to do with the ocean. I just know when fish come to my house, I eat them! I've just kind of made that a rule of thumb! And I don't go in the sun; I'm allergic to it. Otherwise, I'm very happy to come to Hawaii. It's very pretty there. The air smells nice and people are nice. And you know I'm a huge fan of hula -- a raving fan of traditional Hawaiian hula."
"I love it! Absolutely love it. I hear there's a halau playing at the crater festival. And I love every kind of hula, traditional or tourist or what. It's all great, I think.
"Are there any traditional Hawaiian music bands playing at this concert? Na Leo Pilimehana? Three-part harmony? Oh, I want to hear that! I wish the symphony orchestra would play with me, but I guess they're not going to. They have great musicians. ... This is so cool, I'm looking forward to it!"
Sounds like we pulled Linda Ronstadt's musical string again.