Friday, March 14, 2014


My best friend and I had a conversation this week in which she made a remark to the effect that it's a shame you can't watch an awards show on TV nowadays for fear of what your children will ended up seeing or hearing.

In response, I lamented the loss of performers like Linda Ronstadt.  Once dubbed the "Queen of Rock," she announced her retirement last fall.  Rondstadt was huge in the 1970's and paved the way for many other female performers.

The Eagles started out as her backup band.  That's how big she was.

Sadly, Ronstadt has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.  She can, in her own words, "no longer sing a note."

I pointed out to my friend that Rondstadt "didn't need to gyrate around.  She just stood there and sang.  She barely moved.  She did what people paid to hear her do."

To which my friend replied, "Well, but that was in the day when performers had a sense of stage presence."

In case you have no idea who I'm talking about, here's Linda, singing one of her more famous songs, a cover of the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved."

I'd like to point out several things:
  1. She is wearing what have since come to be described as "mom jeans."
  2. She is not emaciated.  And yet, she is not fat.
  3. She isn't suspended over the stage, she isn't lying prone on a piano, and her outfit would not have been considered "ridiculous" by 1977 standards.  She isn't preternaturally tan.  She also isn't blond.
  4. She isn't drunk.  She isn't high.  (Or at least, not noticeably so.)
  5. She isn't showing any cleavage and she doesn't appear to have breast implants.  We are never once treated to a sudden glimpse of any nipple-piercings.  In fact, one might say that she appears to be somewhat small-breasted, and yet she really doesn't appear to care or to regard it as an integral part of her singing performance.  (Fancy that.)  
  6. She is probably wearing underwear, but we'll never know, because she doesn't seem to feel a need to force that information upon us.
  7. She never behaves as if the microphone is a dildo.
  8. She never behaves as if her fellow-musicians are dildos.
  9. She appears to be genuinely enjoying herself.
  10. She sounds the same live as she does on her recordings.
  11. She is enormously wealthy, and she lives in California.
And maybe I'm wrong, but I strongly suspect that you smiled a little and maybe tapped a toe while you listened to her sing.

Can you imagine what a contemporary performer like Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga--or even Madonna-- would do with the likes of a song entitled, "When Will I Be Loved?"

At the risk of sounding "old," I can only say that I don't even want to think about it.  And I certainly don't want to watch it.

All this to say, I think we've lost a sense of the value--and the sexiness--of subtlety.

And more importantly, I worry that we've lost sight of the value of talentWhether or not you liked listening to Ronstadt back in the day, no one would dispute the fact that, at the end of the day, she could, in fact, sing.  And you respected her for that.

What's happened to us?  I hope we get it back.  Soon.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."