By the end of the 1970s, the decade of her greatest commercial success, Linda Ronstadt was being hailed with honors like “the First Lady of Rock” and “Top Female Pop Singer of the Decade.” But neither of those titles captured the true breadth of her musical pursuits or of her popularity. As synonymous as she was in the late 1970s with the pop mainstream, Ronstadt began her rise to stardom working in an idiom as compatible with country-music fashions as with rock. In fact, her first top-10 hit was with the Hank Williams song “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You),” and the biggest hit of her career was “When Will I Be Loved,” which became a #1 hit on the country-music charts on this day in 1975.
“When Will I Be Loved,” a top-10 pop hit for the Everly Brothers in 1960, came from Linda Ronstadt’s 1975 breakthrough album Heart Like A Wheel, which yielded three top-10 hits each on the pop and country-music charts. [“When Will I Be Loved” was the only hit on both; “You’re No Good” was a #1 pop hit that did not make the country charts, and the aforementioned “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)” and Neil Young’s “Love Is A Rose” were #2 and #5 country hits, respectively, but did not have an impact on the pop charts.] While Ronstadt’s dabbling in new wave and disco on her subsequent albums may have seemed to mark her as a trend-follower, in fact they reflected a natural eclecticism would become even more pronounced in future stages of her career.
Over the course of 30 active years (and counting) since her 1975 breakthrough, Linda Ronstadt has recorded songs by such diverse songwriting giants as Hank Williams, Elvis Costello, Gilbert and Sullivan, Smokey Robinson, Sam and Dave and Cole Porter, as well as an entire album of traditional Spanish canciones. Her eclectic musical journey out of youth and into middle age also included a return to her country-tinged roots with the album Trio, recorded with country superstars Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris and a #1 hit on the country-music album charts in 1987.
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