Linda Ronstadt Reveals Parkinson’s Diagnosis
Linda Ronstadt - Photo: Carl Lender, 1978
Linda Ronstadt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2014. Sadly she was not present in person to receive the honor. See videos below.
How This Neurological Disorder Ruined the Singer’s Voice
LifeScript: Originally ublished August 26, 2013
Folk-rock singing legend Linda Ronstadt has revealed that she has Parkinson’s disease, and won’t be reaching for the high notes anymore. Read on to learn about her Parkinson’s diagnosis, and why the neurological disorder can make singing impossible...
Grammy Award-winning performer Linda Ronstadt is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. And the condition has taken away her powerful voice, she says.
“I can’t sing a note,” Ronstadt, 67, revealed in an interview last Friday.
“No one can sing with Parkinson’s disease,” she told AARP the Magazine. “No matter how hard you try.”
As many as 90% of patients with Parkinson’s, a neurological condition that inhibits movement, develop voice disorders, according to a 2008 study published in Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics. Vocal problems include hoarseness and roughness, in part due to breath issues and reduced muscle control in the larynx (voice box).
The folk-rock veteran revealed that she received her Parkinson’s diagnosis 8 months ago, but started experiencing symptoms 8 years earlier. She originally thought the problems, including hand tremors and trouble controlling her vocal muscles, were caused by shoulder surgery and the after-effects of a tick bite.
“When I finally went to a neurologist and he said, ‘Oh, you have Parkinson’s disease,’ I was completely shocked,” she said. “I wouldn’t have suspected that in a million, billion years.”
The Arizona-born Ronstadt, who began her career at age 14, is best-known for such 1970s hits as “Don’t Know Much,” “Heart Like a Wheel” “Blue Bayou” and “You’re No Good.” In addition to racking up 11 Grammys, she received two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy Award and a Tony Award nomination for her role in The Pirates of Penzance.
She continued to perform and record albums until she announced her retirement in 2011. Her memoir, Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2013, but it doesn’t discuss her Parkinson’s diagnosis.
She now uses poles to help her walk on uneven ground and a wheelchair when traveling, Ronstadt said.
A Chronic Ailment
Parkinson’s is a chronic, degenerative disorder, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, named for the actor who was diagnosed with the disease in 1991. It causes the loss of brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for motor control and other brain functions.
The condition may be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, the foundation says.
Parkinson’s disease affects 1 million people in the U.S., and up to 60,000 new cases are added each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. It’s the 14th leading cause of death in the U.S., statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. Men are at slightly higher risk than women.
The four main symptoms are:
- Shaking, or tremor, when at rest
- Slowness of movement
- Stiffness or rigidity of the arms, legs or trunk
- Trouble with balance and falls
- And sadly, the inability to sing. Says Linda Ronstadt, “I can no long sing a note!”
While there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, many patients undergo treatment for the most bothersome symptoms. Medications such as levodopa and carbidopa help increase the brain’s supply of dopamine and improve mobility in the early stages of disease – although symptoms usually return.
Some patients undergo deep brain stimulation, in which a thin electrode is implanted into the brain, according to the Fox Foundation. Small electric impulses then stimulate malfunctioning motor circuits and block the signals that cause some Parkinson’s symptoms. But this therapy isn’t suitable for all patients, the foundation explains.
Below are clips with Stevie Nicks, Carrie Underwood and Glenn Frey backstage at the Ceremony reveal the impact Linda Ronstadt's music had on some of the most-celebrated artists of the past 40 years.
A once-in-a-lifetime medley of Ronstadt’s songs were performed by Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow, Glenn Frey, Emmylou Harris and Carrie Underwood. "I mean she really is the kind of person that I feel like we all strive for our careers to be like," said Underwood.