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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

by director Rob Epstein

The first record I ever bought was a 45 single at a record store in Millburn, NJ where I grew up. It was 1968 and the record was Linda Ronstadt’s “Different Drum.” Here was a voice unlike anything I had ever heard before on the radio, strong and piercing, smooth and soothing. And she wasn’t singing about victimhood, she was singing about empowerment. I was only a kid then, but still it resonated. So, fifty years later, making this film has been a real joy for me.

About six or seven years ago I heard Linda being interviewed on NPR about her career and her new autobiography Simple Dreams. I immediately read the book, and thought, “well, somebody’s got to make this movie.” Around this time my computer repair guy, Phil Donian, was making a house call; he saw Linda’s book on my desk and said, “Linda’s a client of mine too.” That’s how we were first were introduced—through our mutual computer doctor.

Jeffrey and I wrote Linda a letter and she kindly agreed to meet with us. Over lunch we tried to convince her to give us the rights to her autobiography as the starting point for a feature documentary, but she was having none of it because, with her typical modesty, she felt there would be no real interest out there. Fortunately, eventually, we were able to convince her otherwise and she gave us the green light to make a film about her musical journey.

Then out of the blue we got a call from producer James Keach, and that’s when the project really took off. Getting Linda’s colleagues—fellow musicians, agents, and managers—to participate in the film turned out to be easy. James, who is very connected in the music world, made the first approach, and they each said yes—they all have great love and respect for her.

by director Jeffrey Friedman

Reading Linda's book, Simple Dreams, it was striking how focused she was on the music, and how indifferent she seemed to be about pop stardom.

Linda was possessed of an artistic restlessness that constantly drove her to tackle new musical forms. That captured my imagination because it’s so rare for a successful artist to take risks like that. The idea of a rock & roll superstar singing coloratura soprano, for example, is kind of mind-blowing. And then tapping into a whole other part of her voice—lusty and passionate—to interpret traditional Mexican canciones was likewise astonishing.

Linda's book has such a strong voice; we knew we wanted that voice to drive the movie. We were able to construct a first-person narrative from some brief interviews Linda did for the film, augmented with archival interviews she’d done over the last 50 years. But most important was the glorious singing voice. Our team found a treasure trove of performances filmed over the course of her career, and these form the emotional core of the movie. We hope audiences enjoy watching the movie as much as we enjoyed making it.

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