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Parkinson’s disease continues to take its toll on Linda Ronstadt. The legendary voice behind such ’70s hits as “When Will I Be Loved” and “Blue Bayou” can no longer sing; and, in a recent interview, she revealed she’s also having problems accomplishing everyday tasks.
"It’s hard to wash my hair, brush my teeth, and put my clothes on. It’s hard to get up and out of a chair," she told CBS San Francisco last week. When she does attempt to sing, Ronstadt can no longer find the classic voice loved by millions of listeners around the world. “I can’t get to the note,” she says. “I can’t make any quality sound. I can’t arrange pitch. It sounds like shouting.”
Still, the 68-year-old singer, who lives near the beach in San Francisco, hasn’t completely given in to the disease and is trying to remain as active as possible. “I’m still getting around, but it’s getting harder and harder,” she says. “I walk around the neighborhood a little bit. Only a couple blocks now. I used to walk down to the beach, but I don’t do that anymore.”
She acknowledges that her “life is very different. That’s all there is to it,” but seems to have maintained a sense of humor about her fate. “When I start to feel story for myself I just say, ‘Well, I’ve had a long turn at the trough.’”
As for her future? “Well, long-term prognosis is death, I guess. Something’s going to kill you eventually,” she says with a laugh. “It takes a long time [for Parkinson’s] to kill you. Something else will probably get you first … I don’t think about it. I think about what’s going to happen today because I just figure, I don’t have a crystal ball.”
Aside from her incredible career as a recording artist — sales of more than 100 million albums as a singer of rock, pop, Mariachi, and traditional standards — Ronstadt also gained notoriety for some of her famous boyfriends, including California Gov. Jerry Brown. “It was great fun,” she says. “We had a great time and he’s doing such a great job now as governor. We’re still friends.”
Although Ronstadt was unable to make her induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in April, she did make it to the White House in July to receive a Presidential Medal of Arts from President Obama. As he was putting the medal around her neck, Obama whispered to her how he had a crush on her when he was a kid. The president is not alone.
Ronstadt’s scheduled to discuss “Living with Parkinson’s disease as part of Denver’s "Unique Lives" lecture series on April 13. Other speakers at the series include Valerie Harper and Orange Is the New Black writer Piper Kerman.