Unexpected power poppers: Linda Ronstadt

August 1, 2009

I’ll be presenting an occasional series on songs that I consider to be power pop by artists not normally associated with power pop.

Our first example features my second-favourite female artist of the 70s and 80s, Linda Ronstadt, who, you’re no doubt aware, was for years and years a soft country rock ingenue. Let’s just pause for a moment and reflect on why I was in love with La Linda in the 70s:


OK, back to the music.

After a stellar career breakin’ hearts with ballads, Ms Ronstadt decided to (metaphorically) put on a skinny tie and rip up the charts with this little two-and-a-half minute ditty:

Linda Ronstadt – “How Do I Make You” (1980)


“How Do I Make You” comes from 1980’s Mad Love, an album I never got around to buying, or was ever interested in buying. However, I do like “How Do I Make You” a lot.

I don’t know why Ms Ronstadt decided to jump on the New Wave bandwagon. Maybe she wanted to explore musical avenues she hadn’t gone down before, and New Wave was there for her to dip her musical toes into. Or maybe she was fed up with soft country rock and wanted to break free from the prospect of being pigeonholed as a heart-breaker for the rest of her career. Or – I think this the most likely scenario – maybe Linda’s record company wanted her to cash in on the latest trend by recording a song that sounded more like it belonged on Blondie‘s Parallel Lines than on a Linda Ronstadt album.

Anyway, after “How Do I Make You” and Mad Love, Linda Ronstadt went in sorts of musical directions. Wikipedia does its best to chronicle the saga.

Here’s video of Linda performing “How Do I Make You”, in what must be the only time I’ve ever seen her wearing shoulder pads (ah, the 80’s):

So, by my estimation, Linda Ronstadt was a power pop (OK – strictly speaking, New Wave) artist for precisely one album*. After that, it was Broadway, jazz standards, pure jazz, pure country, traditional Mexican folk songs, adult contemporary pop, New Age, rock’n’roll, and roots music. Phew.

(*And thanks for putting away those shoulder pads, Linda.)