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Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir Hardcover – September 17, 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 565 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ronstadt’s memoir is remarkable but not for reasons that readers might think; it is remarkable because of its very ordinariness. There are no tales of parental cruelty or substance abuse. She is lucky that her life has been exceedingly normal, or as normal as it can be for someone as talented and famous as she is, having sold more than a million records. Retired from performing since 2009, Ronstadt now looks back fondly to her childhood in Arizona—her Mexican heritage comes from her father’s side—and shares anecdotes about life on the road, including her first gigs at area coffeehouses and her decision when still a teenager to move by herself to Los Angeles because that was “where the music was.” She writes about her work with the folk-rock band the Stone Poneys, becoming a solo act, exploring the Great American Songbook, recording traditional Mexican folk songs with Rubén Fuentes, and her famous musical friendships, including those with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Ronstadt’s fans will love this refreshingly nice and gracious musical memoir. --June Sawyers


“Engaging and interesting. . . . entirely winning.” (Jonathan Yardley Washington Post)

“True to her subtitle, Ms. Ronstadt delivers a life story stitched to the sails of her eclectic musical voyaging. . . . She has found another way to tell a story: through this winning and informative book, in which her intelligence, passion, humor and commitment shine forth from every page.” (Tom Nolan Wall Street Journal)

“For anyone fascinated by the cross-pollination of musical talent in Los Angeles' buzzing pre-corporate rock scene, Ronstadt's front-row seat offers a prime view. . . . While this bird can no longer sing, on the page she can still fly.” (USA Today)

"Ronstadt revisits, with a mixture of fine-grained insight and personal modesty, one of the most remarkable and wide-ranging singing careers in the last century of American popular music." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Musical memories galore." (Boston Globe)

“A personable and engagingly written memoir… consistently interesting.” (Kirkus)

“A well-written glimpse into musical history as it was being made by Ronstadt and her peers.” (Publishers Weekly)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451668724
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451668728
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (565 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tom L. Huffman on September 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't help but think that the many positive reviews I read here are written by people who have confused their admiration for Linda as a performer and as a person with the quality of her memoir. I am about as enthusiastic Linda Ronstadt fan as you'll find, but this book is frankly awful.

The main problem is that it is just shallow and strangely silent about the music during Linda's peak popularity in the mid 1970s. John Lennon once complained that George Harrison wrote a memoir (I Me Mine) that never mentioned him once. This book is like that. It is as though she intentionally ignores the very aspect of her career that made her so successful. Interested in Andrew Gold's collaboration with Linda? Go elsewhere. He is mentioned in passing only a couple of times. How about Linda's recordings of Karla Bonhoff tunes? Nope. She is mentioned once or twice, again only in passing. In fact the book skips from her last Capital record--and the album that made her a star--Heart Like a Wheel to her wanting to work in Pirates of Penzance. Prisoner in Disguise, Hasten Down the Wind, Simple Dreams, Living in the USA, and Mad Love (all platinum, some multiple platinum) are simply ignored as though they never existed. Just look at the (chronological) chapters:

10. Heart Like a Wheel
11. Malibu
12. Getting Restless
13. Meeting Joe Papp

Heart Like a Wheel is 3 pages long. Three pages! You'd get more detail in a Rolling Stone article. Malibu is about moving to the beach after having financial security for the first time. Getting Restless (six pages!) is about the boredom she felt on tour playing large venues. That's about all she has to say about the years from 1974-1978.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been on a memoir kick lately -- Penny Marshall, Debbie Reynolds, Garry Marshall, Dick Van Dyke, Betty White, Marlo Thomas. A little gossip, a little show business history, some behind the scenes insight, they're fun and they usually don't leave much of an impression. I don't know how much of Linda Ronstadt's memoir I'll remember, but it is the best show business memoir I've read so far.

Ronstadt's writing style is simple and direct. It's a pleasure to read. She wrote the book without a co-writer, and avoided the common traps of first time writers, such as self-consciously trying to write lovely sentences. She just tells her story.

This is truly a musical memoir -- she includes little that doesn't have to do with making music. There are no shocking revelations and it seems that she has remained friends with every man she ever had a long-term relationship with. She writes of friendships and roots and above all, music. The only stories that show people in an unfavorable light are about Jim Morrison's threatening behavior and one or two others in the same vein.

She goes into detail about the decisions she made about trying different types of music and how it was often a fight, since once people have you categorized, they don't like you to change, when it comes to music or almost anything else for that matter.

In her book, Ronstadt says that she's retired from singing now, though that seemed hard to believe when I first read it. The interview and article in AARP online revealed that she says she has Parkinson's Disease and leaves her unable to sing. An article in the New York Times also mentioned some pretty heavy drug use in her past, which she glossed over in the book. In any case, she certainly has a good start at making writing a second career.

(Thanks to Edelweiss for a digital review copy.)
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Format: Hardcover
I've been in love with Linda Ronstadt's voice since I first heard her belt out "You're No Good" through the earpiece of my transistor radio back in junior high. After reading this memoir, I've fallen in love with Linda as a person. What a gracious, level-headed, gentle, modest lady she is. And if she didn't already have enough talents, we can now add writing to her list of creative abilities. The entire book has a mellow vibe. Even the unpleasant events are related with equanimity and with generosity toward those who wronged her.

The subtitle of the book is "a musical memoir," and she does limit what she shares about her personal life. This is not an autobiography in the traditional sense of the word. After the opening chapters about her upbringing in Arizona, the rest of her story stays focused on the evolution of her musical career.

Linda doesn't dish a lot about the people who have shared her life. There are only two brief mentions of Jerry Brown, with whom she had a highly publicized relationship. Likewise, there are only a few sentences about her children, and she never uses their names. Everything else is about the music, but there are plenty of entertaining and unsettling stories to keep things lively.

The seeds of Linda's musical versatility are rooted in her childhood, where the various generations of her family enjoyed everything from classical to mariachi music. Her huge success came from a combination of talent, flexibility, and being in all the right places in an era when country, rock, and folk music were merging and evolving into something new.

She always returned to her roots when deciding on a new musical project. From Pirates of Penzance to great American standards to songs in Spanish, she writes "the music I heard...
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