Linda Ronstadt has been dubbed the “defining voice of a generation,” but behind the scenes, she continues to be a critic of her own music. The 73-year-old singer, who is set to be recognized as an American Cultural Icon at the 42nd annual Kennedy Center Honors this weekend, has revealed that even before Parkinson’s Disease stole away her singing voice, she felt she did a “disservice” to some of the iconic songs that she covered more than 40 years ago.
Ronstadt dominated music charts in the 1970s with cover hits of songs including “You’re No Good,” “It’s So Easy,” and “Blue Bayou.” But she told CBS News she rarely goes back to reminisce about her glory days as a top pop/rock singer because she doesn’t like how she sounds.
In the new interview, Ronstadt revealed that when she hears her earliest works, she’ll go, ”What was I thinking?”
“I’ll think I’m a terrible singer and I never could sing. It’ll ruin my week, maybe my month,” Ronstadt told CBS.
The 10-time Grammy winner also cringes at the thought of her old music living on forever via online music platforms.
“It’s terrifying,” Ronstadt said. “There are all those bad performances just to start with frozen in time, not plastic, not elastic, not growing, not building, not maturing, not learning, not improving.”
Of the many songs she covered, in addition to the aforementioned hits, she recorded Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender,” and The Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice,” just to name a few. Ronstadt told CBS she just interpreted other artists’ songs the best she could.
“And sometimes I did them justice. And sometimes I did them a great disservice,” she said.
Ronstadt, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013, went on to say that she misses singing today mostly because she can no longer sing with family or friends. She noted that some of the “best” music she made was in the shower or while hanging out with friends and jamming in the living room.
The ’70s superstar summed up her music carer by saying the following.
“The only thing I can say about my career is that I wasn’t very good when I started out. But I got a little better.”
This is not the first time that Ronstadt has admitted she doubted her talent. In a 1976 interview with Rolling Stone, she revealed that she felt like she had to apologize for the success of the breakout 1974 album that made her a superstar.
“When ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ went to Number One, I just walked around apologizing every single day,” Ronstadt told Rolling Stone. “I went around going, ‘I’m not that good of a singer…’ And I got so self-conscious that when I went on stage, I couldn’t sing at all. It almost made me go crazy.”
Ronstadt also revealed that she knew when her music was “bad,” and that being given an award or money for a record she didn’t think was any good would not convince her otherwise.