The 'Flip Sides' of Linda Ronstadt

Celebrating Linda Ronstadt as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in December 2019, we share four flip sides from four decades of music.
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By Warren Kurtz

The first time Linda Ronstadt was heard in the Top 40 was in late 1967 with “Different Drum,” a song that Mike Nesmith wrote in 1965 and was first recorded by the bluegrass band The Greenbriar Boys. Mike offered the song to be a Monkees recording, but their management turned it down. The Stone Poneys’ version of “Different Drum” ended up being in the Top 40 at the same time as The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer,” which was written by John Stewart. The flip side of The Stone Poneys’ “Different Drum” was the Pamela Polland composition “I’ve Got to Know.” On this folk rock recording, Linda sang with emotion and power about wanting to know how her boyfriend felt about her, if he was thinking he might leave her and what he said when he talked about her. The Stone Poneys disbanded in 1968. Kenny Edwards, from the trio, returned to playing bass with Linda for her highly successful 1974 album Heart Like a Wheel.

Celebrating Linda Ronstadt as a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in December 2019, we share four flip sides from four decades.

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“DESPERADO”

(Asylum flip side of “Colorado,” 1974)

The third of three singles from Linda’s debut album on the Asylum label, Don’t Cry Now, was the country rock song “Colorado,” written by Rick Roberts, which originally appeared on the self-titled album by The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1971. That quintet included Rick Roberts on guitar along with Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel guitar, both who also perform on Linda’s slow and gentle version of the song. The flip side was a song that has since become a radio and concert staple, “Desperado,” written by the Eagles’ Don Henley and Glenn Frey, which originally appeared as an album cut on their western concept album of the same name. Linda powerfully delivered the ballad, which is also included on her Live in Hollywood album, released this year from a 1980 concert, where she selected a dozen of her favorite performances.

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“LOOK OUT FOR MY LOVE”

(Asylum flip side of “I Can’t Let Go,” 1980)

Like her Don’t Cry Now album, Linda’s Mad Love album also contained three singles. The third was “I Can’t Let Go,” a song that just fell below the U.S. Top 40 in 1966 by The Hollies and was popularized in England the year before by Evie Sands. Chip Taylor shared with Goldmine: “I wrote the song with my talented and great friend, Al Gorgoni. When I had my album Last Chance out in the 1970s, I performed at The Troubadour club in L.A. and I met Linda. She seemed lovely and sweet. We shared a few words after my show at a backroom table. That’s a nice memory although I wished I said more. I was a bit shy in that setting. I am so pleased that she recorded one of my songs.” This is another song which also appears on this year’s Live in Hollywood album. The flip side of Linda’s powerful version of “I Can’t Let Go,” which she sang with Rosemary Butler and Nicolette Larson, was her electric take on Neil Young’s “Look Out for My Love,” a song that had a primarily acoustic delivery on his 1978 album Comes a Time. While Nicolette Larson provided harmony vocals on Neil Young’s album, Linda handled her own harmonies on her 1980 rendition.

“WINTER LIGHT”

(Elektra flip side of “Heartbeats Accelerating,” 1993)

Linda’s 1993 album, Winter Light, included a unique spinning musical instrument. Dennis James told Goldmine, “Linda called me, looking for a glass armonica player and asked if I could drive on up to Marin county. Two hours later I had headsets on and began recording tracks for her album, including the single ‘Heartbeats Accelerating.’ She had first heard the ethereal sound of the rubbed glass armonica some 15 years before and I was thrilled to play on the record, which led to me appearing on three more of her albums. She has a perfectly pure vision of the exact sounds she seeks, much like a painter who has an intense colorist vision when preparing a palette. Linda extends a marvelous courtesy to her fellow musicians at all times. You always feel that you have a friend beside you.” The flip side of “Heartbeats Accelerating,” written by Anna McGarrigle, was the atmospheric title tune “Winter Light,” which Linda co-wrote and was on par with the new age sound heard from Enya, combined with a spiritually calm escape.

The televised coverage of 2019’s “The Kennedy Center Honors” aired on Sunday, December 15.

Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, writing the In Memoriam and the Fabulous Flip Sides series. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9am hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.

Classic Linda Ronstadt comes alive!