Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice - A-
Rated PG-13, 95 minutes
The powerful, touching new documentary "Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice" is one of the best documentaries of year as it looks at Grammy-winning rock legend Linda Ronstadt, who could seemingly do it all until illness took away her voice. Co-directed by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Rob Epstein ("The Times of Harvey Milk" and "Common Threads") and Oscar-nominee Jeffrey Friedman ("End Game"), it provides moving testimony from Ronstadt's colleagues as well as generous helpings of her music.
In the film, Ronstadt is our voice guide through her early years of singing Mexican canciones with her family; her folk days with the Stone Poneys; and then her reign as the "rock queen" of the '70s and early '80s, churning out hits like "You're No Good" and "Blue Bayou." We then see how Ronstadt ventured into Broadway, show tunes, a power ballad with Aaron Neville and the Mexican music of her heritage, all of which she had success with (she's won 10 Grammy's total).
We also learn from "The Sound of My Voice" that Ronstadt is a proud Mexican-American, as well as a pioneer for women in the male-dominated music industry; an early advocate for human rights, and had a high-profile romance with California governor Jerry Brown. Ultimately, her incredible voice was lost to Parkinson's disease, but her music and influence remain as timeless as ever.
With moving performance footage and appearances by collaborators and colleagues, including Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Kevin Kline, Aaron Neville and many more, "The Sound of My Voice" is a fascinating, poignant and ultimately, bittersweet look at a music legend with a powerful voice and the courage to try different forms of music throughout her storied career.
Fortunately, Epstein and Friedman provide good amounts of Ronstadt's music, which is the highlight of the film, but the film's single best moment comes at the end, when they finally turn the camera on the current Ronstadt, who has been narrating throughout, and she speaks of the impact of Parkinsons on her voice. We then see her manage to get out a few bars of a cancionces with a couple of family members, and we're reminded of her genuine musical gifts.