Legendary singer Linda Ronstadt, who has sold over 100 million albums in various genres and languages, has been living with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) since 2013 – though it was initially diagnosed as Parkinson’s disease. Her life has changed drastically since then.
PSP is caused by nerve damage in the brain – affecting body movements, cognitive ability, balance, and much more. Perhaps most notable is its effect on a patient’s voice – something Ronstadt has experienced firsthand. Due to the disease, she no longer has the ability to sing.
In fact, it has been over 10 years since she was able to sing freely and while she misses it dearly, she has found a new way to sing – albeit with her mind, not her voice. It might not be the same, but she finds a way to remain grateful, especially as her disease worsens.
In an interview with TODAY, Linda Ronstadt opened up about singing in her head. “Sometimes, I choose the song, and sometimes my brain chooses the song,” she said, adding that her brain ‘chooses the worst music.’ “It just blares away in my head, like really bad Christmas carols.”
Ronstadt last took the stage in 2009, performing songs from her record-breaking 1987 album Canciones de Mi Padre. The album, which was written and recorded in Spanish, sold more records than any other non-English album in American history. Her final recording came in 2010.
She was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012 – at that point, she had been struggling with her voice for several years. In 2019, doctors realized she was actually suffering from PSP, which has similar symptoms to Parkinson’s. Things haven’t been the same since.
“I can always harmonize in my head, even without music playing. That’s all I can do. I can’t sing,” said Ronstadt. The singer also has a hard time brushing her teeth, eating food, walking, and much more – she also wears a hearing aid, but even she admits it’s likely due to old age.
Linda Ronstadt Will Forever Be Remembered as the First Lady of Rock
Linda Ronstadt, who many refer to as the First Lady of Rock, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, but her impact on music spans several genres. She also made a career for herself in country, opera, Broadway, and even Spanish music – despite the critics.
In fact, she recently released a memoir titled Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands. The book celebrates the culture, music, geography, and food that she experienced as a child growing up in Tucson, Arizona – also detailing the history of the Sonoran desert.
It’s her first memoir since the 2013 release of Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir. This time around, she needed help with the book because she can’t type – another downfall of living with PSP. Now that the disease has advanced and worsened, she struggles with everyday tasks.
That’s not all the legendary singer has going for her. Not only did she recently celebrate her album Canciones de Mi Padre being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, but the singer will soon be one of the newest inductees into the California Hall of Fame – part of the 15th Class.
The other 10 members being inducted into the California Hall of Fame include Lynda Carter, Roy Choi, Steven Chu, Peggy Flemming, Alonzo King, Arlie Russell Hochschild, Barbara Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Ed Ruscha, and Los Tigres del Norte. Congratulations to all!
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