My dad is a big music guy.
Growing up, he constantly had music playing around the house. Artists like the Eagles, Pink Floyd, John Denver and more were the soundtrack of my childhood. Even today, whenever I go home, I am immediately emerged in a wide array of music.
One artist that frequently comes up in conversations with my dad about music is Linda Ronstadt, known best for her hit songs “You’re No Good,” “Blue Bayou” and her cover of “When Will I Be Loved.” Admittedly, aside from her hits, I knew little about Ronstadt.
“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” is a new documentary, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, that explores the life and career of the 10-time Grammy Award winner.
The film opens with an elderly Ronstadt living with her family. She reflects on how she was introduced to music as a child, and how it would go on to shape the rest of her life. The film then follows her journey from singing traditional Mexican songs with her father in Tucson, Arizona, to breaking into the Los Angeles music scene and eventually becoming one of the most iconic artists of the 1970s and 80s.
Over the course of her career, Ronstadt explored a myriad of different genres in her music. She was a rockstar and a folk singer who also explored opera, Latin music and R&B. She was constantly told by people in the music industry that whatever decision she was making would ultimately destroy her career, yet she thrived album after album. “The Sound of My Voice” explores what it was about Ronstadt that made listeners love her, no matter what she was singing.
“The Sound of My Voice” doesn’t just focus on Ronstadt’s success as a performer, it explores who she actually was at her core. Ronstadt had issues with self-confidence and didn’t love to perform in front of sold out stadiums around the globe. The film shows that she generally preferred singing to small groups of people because it felt more personal.
In comparison to other rock stars of the time, Ronstadt felt genuine. She didn’t put on an on-stage persona, and she wasn’t in it for the money. She was just a girl who loved to sing. She was described as “the girl next door” who you would overhear singing by herself.
The documentary explores her career by gathering and presenting an immense amount of information and interviews with Ronstadt and the people around her. Occasionally, you will hear the voice of Ronstadt in 2019 reflecting on some of her decisions, but, for the most part, the film utilizes interviews of her when she was younger to tell the story. It follows her career chronologically, which allows the audience to get emotionally attached to her as a character and watch as she evolves over time.
My only real complaint about the film isn’t a big one.
“The Sound of My Voice” doesn’t touch on who Ronstadt is today all that much. The directors show her at the beginning and the end while intermixing some sound clips of her speaking throughout, but other than that, it just focuses on her youthful days. The documentary establishes that she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which has made singing nearly impossible for her, but it doesn’t explore this very much. Perhaps Ronstadt didn’t want to talk about it, which would be entirely understandable, but when the film ended, I couldn’t help but want to know more about what she’s up to now.
On its surface, “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” is a documentary about someone making it big in the entertainment industry. However, when you look a little deeper, it’s actually just the story of Ronstadt doing what she loves. She has an incredible voice and sharing her music with others is what brings her joy in life.
It’s an exciting, emotional and entertaining documentary, and it’s one that I’ll certainly encourage anyone, including my dad, to see if they get a chance.