LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE (Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman). 95 minutes. Opens Friday (September 27). See listing. Rating: NNNN
Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice gives the eclectic singer – who’s now living with Parkinson’s disease – her due, presenting a convincing case that she may be the most versatile American vocalist of her generation.
From her start in folk, country and California rock in the 1970s to her forays into operetta (she earned a Tony nomination for The Pirates Of Penzance), American standards and Mexican canciones, Ronstadt has continually pushed herself artistically, opening up untapped commercial markets along the way.
Between the generous performance clips, peers like Bonnie Raitt and Karla Bonoff shed light on how revolutionary Ronstadt was at the time as a woman in an industry dominated by men, and her Trio partners Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris discuss her compassion and perfectionism. Cameron Crowe, who wrote a Rolling Stone cover story on her before he became a director, is among the most articulate.
There’s little controversy to cover – her relationship with California governor Jerry Brown ended without fanfare, and there’s a telling clip of Ronstadt criticizing the U.S.’s nuclear policy.
But hanging over much of the film is the singer’s illness, which is dealt with tastefully and without exploitation. The final 10 minutes are poignant, although surely the clip showing her overdue 2014 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame could have used some “Why so late?” editorializing.