Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt was one of the top-selling pop artists of the '70s, with numerous singles that flooded pop radio, including "Blue Bayou," "It's So Easy" and "When Will I Be Loved."

Over the past two decades, Ronstadt has expanded her repertoire to include everything from show tunes to traditional mariachi laments to torch ballads from the '40s and '50s.

Ronstadt was born 53 years ago today in Tucson, Ariz. While she was a student at Arizona State University, she met guitarist Bob Kimmel. They moved to Los Angeles and formed the folk-rock group the Stone Poneys with composer-guitarist Kenny Edwards.

The Stone Poneys had a top-20 hit in 1967 with "Different Drum," written by the Monkees' Michael Nesmith. In 1968, Ronstadt quit the band for a solo career.

She immersed herself in country-folk on her first two albums, Hand Sown, Home Grown (1969) and Silk Purse (1970). But she slowly moved toward more rock-oriented material with backing musicians including Don Henley and Glenn Frey, who would later form the Eagles and play a similar version of "California rock."

Don't Cry Now (1973), featuring covers of "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" and the Eagles' "Desperado," was well received; its follow-up, 1974's Heart Like a Wheel, made Ronstadt a pop superstar. "You're No Good"

(RealAudio excerpt) topped Billboard's Hot 100, and she had hits with covers of "When Will I Be Loved" and "It Doesn't Matter Anymore." With her good looks and sensuous voice, Ronstadt became one of rock's leading vocalists.

The following year's Prisoner in Disguise yielded the hits "Heat Wave" (a cover of the Martha Reeves & The Vandellas' song) and Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears." Ronstadt had her biggest hit LP with 1977's Simple Dreams, which topped Billboard's album chart and went multiplatinum. The record blended such vintage folk songs as "Old Paint" with rockers including Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me."

Living in the U.S.A. (1978) also went to #1 and, in addition to the Chuck Berry title tune, featured a cover of Elvis Costello's "Alison." She ventured into new-wave music on the popular Mad Love (1980).

After the commercial disappointment of 1982's Get Closer, Ronstadt starred in Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" on Broadway. She then began a three-album collaboration — which included 1983's What's New — with arranger Nelson Riddle that showcased pre-rock standards.

In 1986, Ronstadt returned to modern music in the adult contemporary vein. She had a #2 hit duet with James Ingram on "Somewhere Out There" from the animated film "An American Tail." The following year, Ronstadt returned to her country beginnings with the immensely popular Trio LP, which included Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

Ronstadt, who is of Mexican and German descent, also issued an album of traditional Mexican songs, Canciones de Mi Padre. Cry Like a Rainstorm — Howl Like the Wind (1989) was her first pop album in seven years. The multiplatinum LP featured her #2 duet with Aaron Neville, "Don't Know Much."

After two more LPs of Mexican music, Ronstadt released the pop Winter Light (1994) and Feels Like Home (1995), neither of which sold spectacularly. In 1996, Ronstadt issued the children's album Dedicated to the One I Love.

We Ran (1998) included covers of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan songs. Some of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers and many of the L.A. session musicians she worked with in her early career accompanied Ronstadt on the album.

In early 1999, fans were treated to a reunion of Ronstadt, Parton and Harris on Trio II, which featured their tight harmonies on such tracks as "High Sierra" and a cover of Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush."

Other birthdays: Peter Lewis (Moby Grape), 54; Trevor Horn (ex-Yes, ex-Buggles), 50; Joe Satriani, 42; and Ian Curtis (Joy Division), 1956-1980; Johnny Thunders (New York Dolls), 1952-1991.