A “new” album that hit shelves this month was one that scores of music fans likely already knew quite well.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the monumental “Simple Dreams” album by Linda Ronstadt, a reissue with added live performances was released this September.
Though it doesn’t get the kind of press or attention as other works of its era, “Simple Dreams” made music history when it debuted in 1977 — and Ronstadt changed the industry for women for the better.
Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” album had been atop the charts for a record-breaking 29 weeks when “Simple Dreams” debuted. Facing off against a colossal hit like that is no artist’s dream, of course.
“Simple Dreams,” however, became the album to knock “Rumours” off its long-held number-one spot when it hit shelves. It also knocked Elvis Presley off the top of the Billboard Country Album charts — another impressive feat considering Presley had held that spot since his death the month before.
Besides impressive singles like “Blue Bayou” and “Carmelita,” “Simple Dreams” also had a striking album cover — which would go on to win a Grammy for Best Recording Package.
Besides impressive singles like “Blue Bayou” and “Carmelita,” “Simple Dreams” also had a striking album cover, which would go on to win a Grammy for Best Recording Package.
Originally, Ronstadt was to wear a mini-slip in front of multiple mirrors — and that would be what sold the collection of songs. But Ronstadt was uncomfortable with showing so much skin, and she instead changed into a robe; the image was made grainy.
It’s an attention-grabbing cover and certainly part of the album’s success, but Ronstadt’s singing talent is what deserves most of the credit for the winner of a music collection. “Simple Dreams” was Ronstadt’s fifth platinum album and it sold over three million copies in its first year of release. It was a record at the time for a female artist. Only Carole King and her “Tapestry” album had sold more total copies of an album.
Ronstadt was also the first female artist to ever have two singles simultaneously in the top five on the charts — and the first musician to do so since The Beatles. “Blue Bayou” and “It’s So Easy” were the two hits.
“Simple Dreams” would end up earning a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year and Pop Vocal Performance of the Year for Ronstadt.
The critical and commercial success of the album came down to Ronstadt’s ability to stretch and experiment as an artist in a small collection of songs. “Simple Dreams” contains tunes that could be considered country, others that could be considered rock — and some that fit somewhere in between.
There wasn’t a single track on which Ronstadt did not try something different. She performed a memorable cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice” and even two songs — “Carmelita” and “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” — by the legendary Warren Zevon.
It’s a daring album that pushed Ronstadt forward as an artist — and women's place in the industry as well.
It’s a truly daring album that pushed Ronstadt forward as an artist and women's place in the industry as well.
Unfortunately, Ronstadt, now 71, can no longer share her singing with the world. She retired in 2011 and announced a year later she had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and could no longer sing.
That, however, does not mean her voice will fade away any time soon. Ronstadt’s simple and elegant delivery of songs has made her a beloved artist to many music lovers, one whose popularity has continued over the decades. “Simple Dreams,” for instance, has never once been out of print since it debuted 40 years ago.
Ronstadt had an ability to sound unique, while at the same time mixing genre sounds and covering hit songs. Her voice and her style remain unmatched in the industry.
As she wrote in her 2013 memoir, appropriately titled “Simple Dreams,” of her choice in music, “The only rule I imposed on myself, consciously or unconsciously, was to not try singing something that I hadn’t heard in the family living room before the age of 10. If I hadn’t heard it by then, I couldn’t attempt it with even a shred of authenticity.”
(photo credit, homepage image: Carl Lender, Flickr)
Last Modified: September 28, 2017, 8:45 am