Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

2019, PG-13, 95 min. Directed by Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 13, 2019

”When Will I Be Loved?” belts Linda Ronstadt, the singer whose remarkable, decades-long career is recounted in this movie. The answer to that musical query lies here in this loving and valorizing survey of the life of this extraordinary song stylist. Love is ladled out in heaping spoonfuls through well-crafted montages and testimonies from fellow artists. The content is enjoyable and informative, a loving tribute even if deeper analysis and insight rarely rear their heads. Yet I dare anyone not to snap to attention and spontaneously follow the sound of that voice.

There are so many aspects of Ronstadt’s music career to delve into: the clarion voice that burst through our transistor radios in the fall of 1967 on the song “Different Drum” (that voice and that song with its transposed gender references made an indelible, lifetime impact on this reviewer when it was first heard on her bedroom radio at the age of 15); the solo and backup singer on countless folk rock, pop, and arena rock anthems; a Broadway soprano in The Pirates of Penzance; the singer of Mexican canciones on records that had the most American sales of any Spanish-language music; and a collaborator and harmonist with such other independent female artists as Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, and others. This documentary touches on them all, while various speakers sing her praises. Ronstadt also fills in parts of her story in a voiceover that offhandedly mentions the Parkinson’s disease that ended her singing career a decade ago. Yet only in a sweet, perfectly captured moment in her living room – a moment that provides the film’s ending – does the illness come into play, leaving the irony to the audience to tease out about the voice that studio executives could never harness being felled by the foibles of her own body.

Filmmakers Friedman and Epstein prove surprisingly lax in terms of seeing Ronstadt’s career through a cultural lens. Since they are a top-notch documentary duo with such probing films as The Celluloid Closet and The Times of Harvey Milk representative of their filmography, it’s fair to have expected more from this music doc. References are made to Ronstadt’s massive insecurities as well as her bold and self-directed accomplishments, but the things that tether these seemingly contradictory poles are left unexplored or only briefly touched upon. There’s a rich undertow to be sorted through about a woman’s ambitions in the male-dominated world of the music business, a woman who had many romances that provided fodder for gossip columns yet never married and adopted children on her own, and how a song stylist who can claim a tune and make it her own is a musical artist in her own right. Only in a couple of instances do the filmmakers include temporal references onscreen, leaving the rest of Ronstadt’s timeline in a bit of confusion, especially when employing signature songs in time periods prior to their recording. The benefit, however, is that we are treated to a voluminous amount of Ronstadt’s singing and a revealing look at her early family life. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I knock it,” but Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice could stand a remix.

Showtimes

Arbor Cinema @ Great Hills

9828 Great Hills Trail, 512/231-9742

Discounts daily before 6pm.

Sun., Sept. 15

CC 1:00, 3:50, 6:10, 9:40

Mon., Sept. 16

CC 1:00, 3:50, 6:10

Tue., Sept. 17

CC 1:00, 3:50, 6:10, 9:40

Wed., Sept. 18

CC 1:00, 3:50, 6:10, 9:40

Thu., Sept. 19

CC 1:00, 3:50, 6:10, 9:40

Violet Crown Cinema

434 W. Second, 512/495-9600, www.violetcrowncinema.com

Four-hour parking validation in attached garage with ticket purchase. Reserved seating; bar and cafe on-site.

Sun., Sept. 15

11:10am, 1:40, 3:35, 6:05

Mon., Sept. 16

1:45, 3:50, 6:00

Tue., Sept. 17

1:50, 3:55, 6:00

Wed., Sept. 18

1:50, 3:55, 6:00

Thu., Sept. 19

1:40, 2:50, 5:50

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Jeffrey Friedman Films
Howl
Howl is a must-see for Beat freaks and poetry geeks but might not be an enriching experience for newcomers to the work of Allen Ginsberg.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Nov. 12, 2010

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
The life and pain of the jazz great in his own words and music

Sept. 13, 2019

Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Cate Blanchett steals away with what’s left of her dreams in Linklater’s coming-of-middle-age comedy

Aug. 16, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle