Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Ah, those songs and that voice! Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's fine new documentary, LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE

Do kids today even know who Linda Ronstadt is? My generation and probably that of my daughter certainly do, but what a shame and a waste if my grandkids miss out. They (and we) will get a very good taste of the magic that was this singing idol, who gave her last live concert in 2009 due to Parkinson's Disease, via the new documentary LINDA RONSTANDT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE. Ms Ronstadt may not have written the songs she performed, but as one of the many talking heads in the doc explains to us, she made every song she sang her own.

As directed by the duo of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (shown at right, with Mr. Friedman on the left), the documentary bubbles along mostly joyously, even though we learn about the Parkinson's early on, offering up Ms Ronstandt's history and her songs, via a plethora of "greats" from the world of music -- mostly "country" and "folk" -- from Dolly Parton and Emmy Lou Harris to Bonnie Raitt and Maria Muldaur.

We trace her heritage (Mexican and European) and via some fine archival footage, meet her family and learn how her career took off almost immediately once she left Tucson, Arizona, for Los Angeles -- where that glorious voice of hers attracted immediate attention from audiences, critics, music producers and other musicians.

The young Ronstadt (above and below) proved as beautiful to view as her voice was to hear, and she was also blessed with a grace and graciousness that stood her in good stead throughout her career.

What seems most striking now about that lengthy and enormously successful career is how willing -- nay, insistent -- was the singer on consistently challenging herself to try new things

These included an unheard-of-for-a-single-singer range of musical genres, folk and country to rock, pop and even Mexican canciones to appearing in live theater in New York City in a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance (first outdoors in Central Park, then transferring to Broadway and finally being made into a movie for theatrical release).

She of course did the constant touring in amphitheaters across the country but over time grew tired of this. And that's when her expansion began.

Unlike most documentaries or narrative films about hugely successful pop/rock musicians, Ronstadt didn't have much of a struggle with drugs or alcohol. The worst she managed, from what we see here, was a temporary diet-pill problem.

The film does not delve too deeply into Ronstadt's romantic relationships, and only once or twice during its brisk 95-minute running time does it veer a little too near hagiography. Granted, there does seem to be nothing but good things to say about her, but too-many, too-close-together is never a good idea in these bio-docs.

That said, if the sound of Ms Ronstadt's incredible voice does not reduce you to rubble, even as the sight of her lithe, young and beautiful self in the midst of those redolent 1970s brings back loads of fond memories, TrustMovies shall be very surprised.

Released by Greenwich Entertainment, 1091 and CNN Films, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice opens this Friday, September 6, in New York City at Film Forum and in Los Angeles at The Landmark and Arclight Hollywood. Here in South Florida, it will open on Friday, September 13, at the AMC Aventura and at The Movies of Delray and The Movies of Lake Worth. Wherever you live around the country, click here to find the playdates and location of the theaters nearest you.

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