BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 1977: Linda Ronstadt performs at the Greek Theater on September 17, 1977 in Berkeley, California.
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Linda Ronstadt Songs: 10 Definitive Stunners From an All-Time Great

As viewers of the 2019 documentary The Sound of My Voice learn, Linda Ronstadt songs piece together as a road map of North America's pop and folk music traditions. Throughout Ronstadt's journey from Laurel Canyon to Broadway, she recorded quite a few songs either intended for country audiences or too great for genre classifications to even matter.

Indeed, the Tucson, Ariz. native's greatest hits songbook is filled with compelling material. Her covers selection alone make her a legend, including selections listed below as well as her takes on Motown classics ("Heat Wave," "Tracks of My Tears"), Phil Spector creations (The Trio's "To Know Him is To Love Him"), classic rock radio fixtures ("Tumbling Dice") and country standards ("Love Has No Pride," "Mental Revenge"). Fresher material like "Long Long Time" pops up in the mainstream still, thanks most recently to its inclusion in HBO's The Last of Us.

Read on to revisit hits by one of the rare artists equally appealing to decision-makers in Nashville, Los Angeles and New York, then let us know your favorites.

10. "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)" (Heart Like a Wheel, 1974)

Ronstadt covers repertoire ranged from songs associated with everyone from Neil Young ("Love is a Rose") to former backing band The Eagles ("Desperado"). Here, she interprets the work of country music's all-time greatest songwriter and performer, Hank Williams. Listen here.

9. "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" (Simple Dreams, 1977)

Linda Ronstadt performing at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, Calif. June 1984.

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Warren Zevon wrote and originally recorded this song, which was produced by Ronstadt's peer Jackson Browne. Ronstadt brought the song more country-rock credibility en route to Terri Clark's catalog, where it became a top 10 country hit in 1996. Listen here.

8. "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" (Don't Cry Now, 1973)

New Victoria Theatre, London 1974

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Long before she joined forces with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton for the Trio albums, Ronstadt excelled with a solo version of a song covered by some of country music's most talented women. It dates back to Wanda Jackson's 1956 recording and was later interpreted by Skeeter Davis, Rose Maddox and others. Listen here.

7. "Somewhere Out There" (With James Ingram) (An American Tail Soundtrack, 1986)

Linda Ronstadt at the Poplar Creek Music Theater in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, July 3, 1984.

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This multi-Grammy award-winning hit from 1986 stands out for reasons beyond childhood nostalgia over the animated film An American Tail. It's one of Ronstadt's better modern pop offerings in a decade associated with her recordings of orchestral belters (her Nelson Riddle trilogy) and traditional Mexican mariachi music (Canciones de Mi Padre). Listen here.

6. "Don't Know Much" (With Aaron Neville) (Cry Like a Rainstorm Howl Like the Wind, 1989)

Musicians Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville attend the 32nd Annual Grammy Awards on February 21, 1990 at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.

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One of the best-known songs of the late '80s teamed Ronstadt with New Orleans music legend Aaron Neville. Together, they found success with this ever-present pop nugget. The duet partners found similar success with Karla Bonoff's "All My Life." Listen here.

5. "When Will I Be Loved" (Heart Like a Wheel, 1974)

American singer Linda Ronstadt performs on stage, 1970s.

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Fifteen years after the Everly Brothers' original—recorded in Nashville with Chet Atkins and a whos-who of session players—became a pop hit, Ronstadt turned a rockabilly gem into a country chart-topper. Listen here.

4. "Different Drum" (The Stone Poneys' Evergreen: Vol. 2, 1967)


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Ronstadt's biggest hit with the band that introduced her to the mainstream, the Stone Poneys, began its life as a bluegrass song recorded by the Greenbriar Boys. It was written by Monkees member and future country music moonlighter Michael Nesmith. Listen here.

3. "Blue Bayou" (Simple Dreams, 1977)

WASHINGTON, D.C. - JANUARY 19: Linda Ronstadt attends the rehearsals for Jimmy Carter Inaugural Gala on January 19, 1977 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

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Few artists in popular music history could've taken a Roy Orbison original and made it sound like something entirely new. Ronstadt pulled it off when this 1963 single by Orbison became her signature song. Listen here.

2. "You're No Good" (Heart Like a Wheel, 1974)

Linda Ronstadt performing on stage at New Victoria Theatre, London, 1974.

Ian Dickson/Redferns

For her first and only No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart, Ronstadt took an R&B obscurity cut 11 years earlier by Dionne Warwick's sister Dee Dee and turned it into a modern pop standard. Numerous hits and classic albums later, this single off the 1974 studio albumHeart Like a Wheel reigns as the finest example of Ronstadt's talent as a song interpreter. Listen here.

1."It's So Easy" (Simple Dreams, 1977)

Singer Linda Ronstadt sitting on beach.

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It's hard to imagine this song existing before Ronstadt took it to the Billboard 100's Top 5 in 1977, but it actually started as Buddy Holly's final single with The Crickets. Ronstadt fared well with covers of rock 'n' roll's bespectacled icon, including a popular recording of the Beatles' go-to Holly tune, "That'll Be the Day," from her Hasten Down the Wind album. Listen here.

READ MORE: Ashley McBryde Songs: 10 by One of Country Music's Most Gifted Storytellers

This story was first published on July 15, 2020.