In last Thursday’s Buzz Blog my colleague took us on a journey through her evolving music tastes; she started out as a country fan, made a detour through hip-hop and finally settled on rock.
The accompanying poll featured “genre jumping” artists Kelly Clarkson, Kid Rock and Lionel Richie, who are all current examples of singers who refuse to be defined by one genre. Clarkson crossed over from pop to country, Kid Rock has been working his rap-rock/country/blues thing for years, and Richie expanded beyond his pop/R&B success by going country in 2012.
But genre jumping is not a recent phenomenon. Elvis (Presley, not Costello) was recording gospel, country, rock and R&B six decades ago. No wonder they call him The King.
This got me thinking about the most versatile artist of all time, the one whose songs would be played on the widest variety of radio station formats. After an exhaustive scientific study briefly scanning my iTunes library, I believe I have come up with the answer.
Ladies and gentlemen, I submit for your consideration: Linda Ronstadt. (Crowd noise, high fives all around.)
She’s got 27 studio albums and 63 singles (including 5 number ones) under her belt. And, in my opinion, Linda Ronstadt is the singer who’s demonstrated the most versatility over the course of her career. I’d argue that she is the greatest genre jumper of them all. Work with me on this…
She started out singing (1)FOLK music with The Stone Poneys before releasing her first solo album in 1969.
She topped the (2) COUNTRY chart in 1974 with “When Will I Be Loved,” the same year “You’re No Good” hit number one on the (3) POP chart. She’s been a constant presence in (4) ADULT CONTEMPORARY with hits like “Blue Bayou” and “Ooh Baby Baby,” and in (5) CLASSIC ROCK with “How Do I Make You” and “Get Closer.”
In the early ’80s she started singing (6) TRADITIONAL POP, taking on the Great American Songbook on albums like What’s New, Lush Life and For Sentimental Reasons. And then, just to keep us on our toes (and to celebrate her Mexican-American heritage and throw a bone to her Latino fan base), she released Canciones de Mi Padre in (7)SPANISH. Talk about versatility! Can a hip-hop album be far behind?
Along the way she’s tackled duets (“Somewhere Out There” with James Ingram, “Don’t Know Much” with Aaron Neville) and recorded two albums with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton (Trio and Trio II.) I challenge you to come up with someone who has broader appeal.
My personal favorite Linda Ronstadt songs are “Long, Long Time,” “Different Drum,” and her cover of Tom Petty’s “The Waiting.” What are yours?
And while you’re at it, which artist who has collaborated with Linda Ronstadt is your favorite?