Linda Ronstadt's Life in Pictures

One of the most successful, awarded and versatile singers of all time, Linda Ronstadt has conquered every musical genre from arena rock to Broadway — and did it all on her own terms. In honor of her 76th birthday on July 15, look back at her remarkable life and career in photos 

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Linda Ronstadt's Childhood lindaronstadtmusic Verified Mini Linda 😍 What do you think? . . . . . . . . . . . #LindaRonstadt #LindaRonstadtFans #MusicHistory

Linda (pictured in 1950) was born July 15, 1946 to Gilbert and Ruth Mary Ronstadt in Tucscon, Ariz. She would go on to be one of the most successful female singers of all time; between 1969 and 2009, she released more than 30 albums (with 21 top 40 hits between them), been one of the most successful touring acts and won 10 Grammys across many genres of music.

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Linda Ronstadt's Family lindaronstadtmusic Verified “That’s what happens when you are saturated in song from earliest childhood, when melodies and harmonies and chords enter your body through your ears and skin, mingle with your brain cells, and nestle in your heart, the muscle beating a rhythm that keeps you going all your life.” -Linda Ronstadt Linda’s new book, FEELS LIKE HOME: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands comes out October 4. The book showcases Linda’s experiences growing up through pictures, stories, recipes and traditional songs. Pre-order your copy: link in bio. #LindaRonstadt #NewBooks #MusicBios #FeelsLikeHome 5w

The third of four children in her family (which was featured in Family Circle magazine in 1953!), Linda grew up around music. In her memoir Feels Like Home, the singer wrote: "That's what happens when you are saturated in song from earliest childhood, when melodies and harmonies and chords enter your body through your ears and skin, mingle with your brain cells, and nestle in your heart, the muscle beating a rhythm that keeps you going all your life."

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Linda Ronstadt in Her Teens

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Greenwich Entertainment/Kobal/Shutterstock (10803771b) Linda Ronstadt 'Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice' Documentary - 2019 With one of the most memorably stunning voices that has ever hit the airwaves, Linda Ronstadt burst onto the 1960s folk rock music scene in her early twenties.
Greenwich Entertainment/Kobal/Shutterstock

Ronstadt (pictured here in 1959) was musical from an early age. "The radio was my best friend," she told PEOPLE in 2019. "It was always on. Mexican music, country, gospel, blues."

Over her decades-long career, Ronstadt became known for her exacting interpretation of others' songs (some of her biggest hits, including "Different Drum," "You're No Good" and "When Will I Be Loved," were covers), as well as her versatility in genres; she would go on to record albums of standards, traditional Mexican music and perform opera.

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Linda Ronstadt Begins Her Career in Music

Linda Ronstadt & the Stone Poneys perform at Palo Verdo High School, May 8, 1968 in Tucson Arizona. (Photo by Johnny Franklin/andmorebears/Getty Images)
Johnny Franklin/andmorebears/Getty

Even as a young girl, Ronstadt knew she'd pursue a singing career. Stumped on a math problem at age 6, she recalled to PEOPLE, she thought, "Well, I won't have to add, because I am going to sing."

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Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys

NEW YORK - 1968: The Stone Poneys L-R Shep Cooke, Linda Ronstadt and John Keski perform at the Bitter End nightclub in 1968 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Shortly before her 18th birthday, she moved to California to become the frontwoman of the folk-rock trio the Stone Poneys (with Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards). The group found success with their chart-topping single "Different Drum."

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Linda Ronstadt Goes Solo

BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 1977: Linda Ronstadt performs at the Greek Theater on September 17, 1977 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images)
Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty

It was clear from her powerful voice and brilliant musical mind that Ronstadt was a breakout star, and in the early 1970s she began recording as a solo artist. She appeared solo on the Johnny Cash Show in 1969 and soon after was touring with acts including the Eagles (who started out as her backing band!) and Jackson Browne.

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Linda Ronstadt's Famous Friends

Linda Ronstadt and Mick Jagger (Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty

She was popular with other musicians for her talent and genre-crossing creativity. She and Mick Jagger "used to hang out and play music after shows. That's all," she told PEOPLE.

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Linda Ronstadt's Romantic Life

Singer Linda Ronstadt and Governor Jerry Brown attending the opening night of 'Dreamgirls' on March 20, 1983 at the Shubert Theater in Century City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Ron Galella Collection/Getty

The singer did have several high-profile romances, including with then-Governor of California, Jerry Brown (which earned her a second cover of PEOPLE magazine — her first was solo in 1977, her second with him in 1979).

The two split shortly after his 1980 presidential campaign, but have remained friends, she told PEOPLE. She was later linked to Jim Carrey and George Lucas.

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Linda Ronstadt on Saturday Night Live

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 16 -- Pictured: (l-r) Gilda Radner as Rhonda Weiss, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, Linda Ronstadt during the 'Goodbye Saccharine' skit on March 19, 1977 -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

At the height of her 1970s success, Ronstadt gave comedy a go, joining Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman in a sketch on Saturday Night Live.

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Linda Ronstadt on Tour

BERKELEY, UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 26: Linda Ronstadt performing at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California on September 26,1982. (Photo by Clayton Call/Redferns)
Clayton Call/Redferns

Ronstadt's album sales were consistently spectacular (in fact, her album Living in the USA was the first album in history by any act to sell 2 million copies in advance), and her success on tour followed. She became the first woman to sell out stadiums and conquered different genres of rock. But she didn't enjoy the arena shows to thousands of fans: "You can't hear yourself," she told PEOPLE.

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Linda Ronstadt in The Pirates of Penzance

UNSPECIFIED - circa 1970: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of PIRATES OF PENZANCE and GILBERT & SULLIVAN and Linda RONSTADT; Linda rondstadt performing (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
GAB Archive/Redferns

Eager to challenge herself, the star joined the Broadway production (and eventual film version) of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance. The role of Mabel required a coloratura soprano — hardly the rock sound she was known for — but she mastered it and earned rave reviews. "As the ingenue, Mabel, Miss Ronstadt is a curly-headed angel whose coloratura in 'Poor Wandering One' somehow merges pure sex with virginal rapture," the New York Times wrote in a review at the time.

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Linda Ronstadt Joins The Trio

(left to right) singers Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris are shown in a photo session in Hollywood, California, at a Universal City hotel, promoting their album "Trio." Star Tribune photo March 13,1987, by Bruce Bisping.(Photo By BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune via Getty Images)
BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune via Getty

The star spent the 1980s taking on whatever musical projects interested her, including forming a country-folk group with friends Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris fittingly called The Trio. In 1986, they released their first album, which spent five weeks at the top of Billboard's country charts and made the top 10 on the pop charts as well; it also earned them a Grammy.

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Linda Ronstadt's Children lindaronstadtmusic's profile picture lindaronstadtmusic Verified ❤️ Happy Mother's Day to all of you wonderful Mothers in the UK, Ireland and beyond ❤️ . . . . . . . #HappyMothersDay #MothersDay #UKMothersDay #MothersDayUK #MothersDayIreland #LindaRonstadt #LindaRonstadtMusic #LindaRonstadtFans #MusicIcon #SingerSongwriter

Though Ronstadt never married (telling The New Yorker recently, "I didn't need to get married. I'm not sure that anybody needs to get married ... I had my own life"), she welcomed two children by adoption in the early '90s: Daughter Mary Clementine (pictured) and son Carlos.

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Linda Ronstadt's Awards

Musicians Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville attend the 32nd Annual Grammy Awards on February 21, 1990 at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty

The star has earned 10 competitive Grammys (including this 1990 win for her duet "Don't Know Much" with Aaron Neville) and a lifetime achievement Grammy, plus another lifetime achievement award from the Latin Grammys. She also was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been nominated for a Tony and Golden Globe.

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Linda Ronstadt Records Canciones de Mi Padre

TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Air Date 12/09/1987 -- Pictured: (center) Musical guest Linda Ronstadt performs -- Photo by: Steffin Butler/NBCU Photo Bank
Steffin Butler/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

Having tried her hand at many genres, the star decided in 1987 that she wanted to record an album of Mexican folk songs to honor her father, who was of Mexican heritage. Her tour was a full theatrical stage show, the filmed version of which won her an Emmy.

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Linda Ronstadt Receives a National Medal of Arts

US President Barack Obama presents the National Medal of Arts to US singer Linda Ronstadt during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

In 2014, the singer was honored in recognition of her service to arts and culture in the United States by President Barack Obama, who confessed to having "a little crush on her back in the day."

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Linda Ronstadt's Parkinson's Diagnosis

NEWPORT, RI - AUGUST 03: Singer Linda Ronstadt performs at the Dunkin' Donuts Newport Folk Festival in Newport Rhode Island on August 3, 2007. (Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images)
Douglas Mason/Getty

The singer had retreated from performing in the late 2000s (she's pictured here at one of her last shows, in 2007) but didn't reveal why until 2013, when she shared with AARP Magazine that she had received a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. "I was completely shocked," she told the magazine. "No one can sing with Parkinson's disease, no matter how hard you try."

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Linda Ronstadt Receives a Kennedy Center Honor

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 7: Philip Bailey, Maurice White, and Ralph Johnson of WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 8: R&B collective Earth, Wind & Fire, actress Sally Field, singer Linda Ronstadt, Abby, Big Bird, Elmo, Joan Ganz Cooney, and Lloyd Morrisett of the children's television program "Sesame Street" and conductor and musical visionary Michael Tilson Thomas were recognized for their achievements in the performing arts during THE 42nd ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, to be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 15 (8:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)
John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty

The legendary singer joined fellow arts icons Earth, Wind & Fire, Sesame Street, Michael Tilson Thomas and Sally Field in being recognized by the Kennedy Center in 2019.

Many of her former collaborators appeared to pay tribute to her, including Kevin Kline, Aaron Neville and Don Henley. "There were a lot of friends that I wanted to talk to, and I couldn't because it was so loud!" she told PEOPLE. "Emmylou Harris was so sweet. She went up and spoke, and she made me cry. I'm not a cry baby — I never cry and I don't like to cry in public — but I couldn't help myself."

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Linda Ronstadt Reunites with The Trio

Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton onstage at the 2019 MusiCares Person of the Year dinner. Lester Cohen/Getty Images

Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton reunited in 2019 when Parton received the MusiCares Person of the Year award. Ronstadt recounted their reunion to The New Yorker, with dry humor about how far her Parkinson's has progressed: "I don't think she realized I'm as disabled as I am. She threw her arms around me, and I kept saying, 'Dolly, watch out! You're going to knock me down!' She thought I was kidding. I nearly fell down. I grabbed onto the podium that her award was on and knocked it to the ground. It was made out of glass and it broke. 'Congratulations, here's your award—smash! You get to take the pieces home.' "

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Linda Ronstadt's Documentary

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 11: Linda Ronstadt attends AARP The Magazine's 19th Annual Movies For Grownups Awards at Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel on January 11, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for AARP)
Phillip Faraone/Getty

Also in 2019, the singer agreed to film a documentary about her extraordinary life and career, called Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice.

"I ducked doing a documentary and finally said yes to this one so everyone else would go away," Ronstadt told PEOPLE that year. But in the end, she was happy with the work the filmmakers did, even if she found the results unnerving: "It's like dying! They say your life flashes before your eyes. It's impossible to be objective."

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Linda Ronstadt Reflects on Her Life and Loss

Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt. Jessica Chou for The Washington Post via Getty Images

"I sang for so many years of my life—not being able to is like not having a leg or an arm," she told PEOPLE in 2019. But, she added, she doesn't let it get her down: "There's no point in dwelling on it. In my mind—in my imagination—I can still sing."

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