Sim­ple Dreams: A Mu­si­cal Mem­oir

Linda Ron­stadt Si­mon & Schus­ter

NZ Today - - ON BOOKS -

That sub­ti­tle is im­por­tant – Linda Ron­stadt’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy con­cen­trates on the mu­sic – and she wanted you to know that; you’re not al­lowed to be up­set at the lack of scan­dal, gos­sip, drugs and judg­ment – this is about the mu­sic. And she writes well. And the story is ex­cit­ing. Born into mu­sic – into a love of mu­sic – Ron­stadt gives you the con­text around her love of so many styles, she be­came a di­verse singer, ca­pa­ble of sound­ing won­der­ful as lead, as back­ing singer, as duet part­ner across light jazz, coun­try, pop, rock and show tunes. Her book lets you know she was al­ways a fan; that she did the lis­ten­ing, that she fell in love with the sound, that her life was saved by rock’n’roll.

And she’s not about to get side­tracked by dish­ing dirt, wor­ry­ing about her health, bask­ing in for­mer glo­ries or petty quar­relling.

Sim­ple Dreams is a book that de­scribes, of­ten beau­ti­fully, al­ways vividly, Ron­stadt’s me­te­oric rise but more im­por­tantly it de­tails the scenes she moved in, the peo­ple she worked with. It’s an in­ter­est­ing story and Ron­stadt seems happy to paint her­self as the some­times bit-part player in her own life. She gushes over Em­my­lou Har­ris and Gram Par­sons, the birth of The Ea­gles, the ex­cite­ment of the big sta­dium shows – and then the malaise that sets in from the tread­mill of it all. But it’s al­ways – and only – about the mu­sic. And it’s a won­der­ful book be­cause of this.

Ron­stadt was a mas­sive star in the 1970s – a favourite across ra­dio sta­tions and bed­room walls – and she’s aware of this but al­ways slightly baf­fled by it.

If there’s one ma­jor crit­i­cism, it’s that the book runs out of steam. The Trio al­bums with Dolly Par­ton and Em­my­lou are men­tioned in pass­ing, the beaut duo al­bum with Em­my­lou gets a one-line men­tion, just a brief nod to duet­ting with Aaron Neville (it’s all very warm but just slight). To be per­fectly blunt, the book dies away in much the same fash­ion as Ron­stadt’s ca­reer has over the last 25 years. But that’s ul­ti­mately a small gripe given the won­der­ful pas­sages and kind-hearted sto­ries of mu­si­cal ap­pre­ci­a­tion, of scene-set­ting and en­gag­ing prose by an artist so en­thralled by it all. It’s rather spe­cial to read a mem­oir where ego has been shelved.

Sim­ple Dreams is a must-read for mu­sic fans – and Ron­stadt’s vivid rec­ol­lec­tions of some of the great song­writ­ers of the 1970s (James Tay­lor, War­ren Zevon, Jack­son Browne, Gra­ham Nash, JD Souther) are lov­ing tributes mixed with flyon-the-wall mo­ments.

It’s a real page-turner too; never bogged down by one par­tic­u­lar mo­ment, for the most part this book makes for ex­hil­a­rat­ing read­ing. I ex­pected to en­joy it – I wasn’t ex­pect­ing to ab­so­lutely love it.

Si­mon Sweet­man

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