Linda Ronstadt is one of the most beloved country and rock and roll stars of all time. The singer-songwriter was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is a 10 time Grammy winner and even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris for their Trio collaborations. But in addition to her own incredible musical contributions, Ronstadt is also partially responsible for the formation of one of the most legendary rock bands of all time: The Eagles.
Although Don Henley and Glenn Frey already knew one another, it was their time spent in Ronstadt's backing band that led to the two men forming their own band. In addition to Henley and Frey, Ronstadt enlisted original Eagles members Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. (All four men played on Ronstadt's 1972 self-titled album.)
Ronstadt's boyfriend at the time, John David Souther, had been in the country-rock band Longbranch Pennywhistle with Frey. The "You're No Good" singer told Billboard she knew from the beginning she was witnessing rock history in the making.
"They used to rehearse in my house, where I was living with J.D., 'cause we had a bigger living room than they did. And I remember coming home one day and they had rehearsed 'Witchy Woman' and they had all the harmonies worked out, four-part harmonies," Ronstadt told Billboard. "It was fantastic. I knew it was gonna be a hit. You could just tell. They had really strong voices, really strong playing, really strong songwriting ideas and they had an extended pool of songwriters like Jack Tempchin and J.D. Souther and Jackson Browne. It was just an amazing time. There was no way they could miss with all that going for them."
Ronstadt once again gave the Eagles a boost when she recorded "Desperado" on her 1973 album Don't Cry Now. The song, originally featured on the Eagles' sophomore album of the same name, had flown under the radar until Ronstadt's cover. Today, the song is considered one of the band's signature tunes.
During Ronstadt's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2014, Glenn Frey paid tribute (and gave thanks) to his old pal.
"So Linda and I, we became friends, and in the spring of 1971, she hired me and a singing drummer from Linden, Texas named Don Henley to play in her back-up band. From the first rehearsal, I felt we were working on a style of music none of us had ever heard before," Frey said. "Two years later, people called it 'country-rock.' While touring with Linda that summer, Don and I told her that we wanted to start our own band, and she, more than anyone else, helped us put together the Eagles. That's right. And later, she gave our careers a big shot in the arm by recording our song, 'Desperado.'
JD Souther dated Ronstadt from 1972-1974. Souther is well known for his songwriting abilities and he penned a number of hits for the Eagles, including "Best of My Love," "Victim of Love," "Heartache Tonight," "New Kid in Town" and "How Long." He's also written for other artists, such as Bonnie Raitt, George Strait, Trisha Yearwood and Jackson Browne and has contributed backing vocals to Don Henley and his old friend James Taylor.
Souther co-produced Ronstadt's album Don't Cry Now and let her be the first to hear his solo album. He's released multiple albums over the years including Black Rose, You're Only Lonely, Home by Dawn, Natural History and Tenderness. The couple even recorded multiple songs together including "Faithless Love." Souther has also been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Souther also appeared on the television series Nashville.
Ronstadt and Souther remain close friends.
Read More: The 10 Best Linda Ronstadt Songs, Ranked
Following Ronstadt's relationship with Souther, the music legend was linked to Jim Carrey, George Lucas and California governor Jerry Brown.
Ronstadt met Jerry Brown in Los Angeles in 1971. They dated off and on through the '70s and '80s and even went to Africa together in 1979.
In her 2014 memoir Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir, Ronstadt shared that the couple "had a lot of fun for a number of years. He was smart and funny, not interested in drinking or drugs, and lived his life carefully, with a great deal of discipline."
In a 2019 interview with The New Yorker, Ronstadt addressed the media's interest in the fact that she never married.
"I didn't need to get married. I'm not sure that anybody needs to get married," Ronstadt said. "If they do, I'm on their side. But I never needed to get married. I had my own life."
After an astounding career, Ronstadt retired from singing in 2009. In 2013, she announced that she'd been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.
The 2019 documentary The Sound of My Voice chronicles Ronstadt's life and career, including her influence on the L.A. country-rock music scene.
This article was written by Courtney Fox with contributions from Bobbie Jean Sawyer. It was originally published in July of 2020.
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