The legendary singer Emmylou Harris nicely sums up her approach to music as follows: “For me, obviously, there’s a certain amount of ego, but it’s always about the song. You are the vessel through which the music comes. So it’s a sacred responsibility when you have that gift of being able to sing and being able to perform. I just think that that should be your priority.”
Emmylou first made waves singing, touring, and recording with country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons for the two years before his untimely death, including on his solo albums GP and Grievous Angel. She then launched an acclaimed solo career which has won her Grammy awards, Gold Records, and the hearts of fans for over four decades.
Mixed in was the smash hit Trio album with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton, and her heavenly harmony vocals on recordings with artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Lucinda Williams, Leo Kottke, Steve Earle, and Guy Clark. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
This inteview was for a preview article for noozhawk.com for Emmylou’s performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 7/8/16. It was done by phone on 7/5/16. (Mark Sliger photo)
Linda Ronstadt’s career in music has taken many twists and turns. She began in country rock with the Stone Poneys, and had the hit song “Different Drum”. She then earned the nickname “The First Lady of Rock” with 1970’s / early 1980’s hits like “You’re No Good”, “When Will I Be Loved”, “Heat Wave”, “Blue Bayou”, “It’s So Easy”, and “Hurt So Bad”.
She also had notable success with her “Trio” recordings with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, was nominated for a Tony award for her Broadway performance of The Pirates of Penzance, and recorded traditional pop standards with Nelson Riddle and hit duets with James Ingram (“Somewhere Out There”) and Aaron Neville (“Don’t Know Much”). Mixed in were acclaimed recordings of the Mexican music that she grew up listening to.
It’s probably safe to say that Ronstadt had one of the most diverse singing careers of all time. And certainly one of the most successful.
Ronstadt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in December 2012. This has made it impossible for her to sing, but her voice carries on in a lifetime of recordings.
This interview was for a preview article for noozhawk.com for “A Conversation with Linda Ronstadt” at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 4/21/16. It was done by phone on 4/4/16. (Rocky Schenk photo)
Jimmy Webb’s songwriting credits are quite remarkable. He is most closely associated with Glen Campbell, who sang the definitive versions of Webb’s songs “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, and more. (A lesser known gem and Music Illuminati favorite is “You Might As Well Smile” from Campbell’s 1974 album Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb.) Other songwriting credits include “Up, Up and Away” (The Fifth Dimension), “MacArthur Park” (Richard Harris, Waylon Jennings, Donna Summer), “All I Know” (Art Garfunkel), and “Highwayman” (The Highwaymen). Other artists who have recorded and/or performed his songs include Linda Ronstadt, Barbra Streisand, and Frank Sinatra. Webb has also released his own wonderful albums over the years, most recently 2013’s Still Within the Sound of My Voice.
This interview was for a preview article for the concert by Webb and Karla Bonoff at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 6/7/14. It was done by phone on 5/21/14. (Jessica Walker photo)
Karla Bonoff is arguably best known for having several of her songs covered by Linda Ronstadt, including “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me,” “Lose Again” and “If He’s Ever Near” from Ronstadt’s 1976 album Hasten Down The Wind. But to call Bonoff a “songwriter” doesn’t do justice to the fact that she has also released her own wonderful albums over the years, including her 1977 self-titled debut that included the aforementioned songs and had quite a cast of supporting musicians, plus the hit song “Personally”. Before her solo career, she was a member of the folk-rock group Bryndle.
This interview was for a preview article for the concert by Bonoff and Jimmy Webb at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 6/7/14. It was done by phone on 5/20/14.
When Jackson Browne assembled the band for his 1977 landmark live album Running on Empty, he chose some of the best musicians in the business. For backing vocals he chose Rosemary Butler. The rest, as they say, is history.
By that point, Butler already had a notable career in music. She was in the all-female band the Ladybirds, which opened for The Rolling Stones in 1964. She later joined the all-female hard rock band Birtha, which released two albums in the early 1970′s. And she had sung backing vocals for Bonnie Raitt and Warren Zevon. She went on to sing backing vocals for many other notable artists including Linda Ronstadt, Ringo Starr, James Taylor, Little Feat, and many more. Butler just released a new album You Just Watch Me.
This interview was done by email for a preview article for her concert at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 12/1/13, with answers received on Thanksgiving Day, 11/28/13. (L. Paul Mann photo)