Linda Ronstadt said she was determined to “have a life,” even though she was forced to retire from singing in 2009 as a result of Parkinson’s disease.
The 73-year-old singer performed her final concert in 2009, several years after suffering the first symptoms of the incurable illness. Last year, she began to appear at spoken-word events, talking about her career and how her lifestyle has changed in the past decade.
“You have to have a life, but I have to be very selective about what I do,” Ronstadt told the San Francisco Chronicle in a new interview, noting that she was phasing out the medication she’d been given because of its side effects.
“I knew it was something systemic,” she said of losing her singing abilities. “I knew it wasn’t age. Doctors looked at my larynx and said it was in perfect condition, that I had a teenage larynx.” Ronstadt wasn’t diagnosed until 2013, which was too late to mention it in her book, Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir, that was published that year.
“Brushing my teeth is the hardest thing I do all day,” she said. “I’m like a window washer without a safety harness. Of course, I have a hard time talking, and traveling is ridiculous. It’s just the nature of the beast.” Ronstadt added that she makes a point of working out regularly. “It’s important to push that signal through my brain,” she explained. “It takes a lot of will.”
She said she took inspiration from one of the world’s best-known persons living with Parkinson’s. “Michael J. Fox told me, ‘I make plans, and I keep them,” she said. You can see a schedule of “A Conversation With Linda Ronstadt” dates on her website.
“A … friend had offered me a ride to the coast. He had gigs north of LA and offered to drop me off on the way. My parents were upset and tried to talk me out of it. … The only thing I remember about that long ride through the desert night was searing remorse for having defied my parents. I was still very attached … they had always been so kind to me. I felt terrible for hurting them and causing them worry. There was nothing to be done. My new life was beginning to take shape.”