No, Ronstadt never played an instrument in concert or on record. She never wrote her own songs, either. She had one power, but it was a superpower. Viewed from one angle, Linda Ronstadt’s career is the story of a woman gradually recognizing the power of her own voice. She had the tone early, but you can hear her control improve in each successive album. Her breaths sound more natural, her vibrato becomes more pronounced. By Heart Like a Wheel, she’d mastered it. In the ensuing years she was equally at home singing Pirates of Penzance on Broadway, making albums with big-band legend Nelson Riddle or the top Mariachi bands in Mexico, and harmonizing with Dolly Parton, Aaron Neville, or Kermit the Frog. She seemed to grasp that her voice was some supernatural gift that she had a responsibility to cultivate and share, and every time she went looking for bigger audiences, she found them eager to listen.
So what made her feel so connected to Anna McGarrigle’s little poem of lost love? As a young woman fighting her way out of a male-dominated music scene, she must have related to the deep ungendered sorrow in the song’s lyrics, but she must also have been looking for a tune that could be fully hers. She needed a lyric that she could feel more deeply than anyone else, and a melody she could bless with her unwavering tone. There was a world of music in her mind, and this one whispered verse turned out to be the key that opened it."--Pitchfork