Knit to This
Knit to This: Linda Ronstadt Singing, Oh, Anything
It’s hard to remember a time in my life when Linda Ronstadt wasn’t singing in the background. For a while, she was everyone’s favorite singer, and for a lifetime, she was my mother’s. Ronstadtphilia rubbed off on me early on and I’ve been a devoted fan my whole life as well.
I’m fairly certain I have the distinction of being the only high school boy in history who carried around an LP copy of “What’s New.” CARRIED AROUND IN SCHOOL! I carried it around in school! AN LP! It’s a miracle I’m alive today, now that I think about it. But maybe Linda was a shield or a force field, a protector all that—all this—time.
My mother has been ill for the last nine or ten months and did indeed die a couple of weeks ago,
The whole final bit had Linda Ronstadt threaded through it. Mom’s focus wasn’t the greatest over the last weeks of her life, so I spent a lot of time tossing subjects in the air, trying to find something that would engage her conversationally. We would talk about something for three minutes, her interest and energy would flag, and then we’d move on to something else. Cormac McCarthy, Jeopardy, pancakes for dinner, whether the guy who mows the yard should do it on the diagonal because it looks “ritzier,” a shocking, suddenly revealed lifelong antipathy towards Patty Duke (“I hate her,” she spat, to my astonishment. I mean, what did Patty Duke ever do to my mom?) and on and on.
Everything got three minutes. Everything but Linda Ronstadt, who got way more than that because Mom could remember a lot of Linda Ronstadt song lyrics. And look, my mother loved to sing. She couldn’t but she did, and when she let loose a few weeks ago with her version of “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” in a key that can only be described as “mesa-flat,” I was a little bit surprised the tumor in her lung didn’t jump out of her body and demand a new host on the spot.
Since she died, I’ve had Linda in my earholes pretty consistently. Whether I’m cleaning the kitchen or packing up a box of books from Mom’s library or packing up a box for you or knitting a few rows of Mom’s unfinished last project—a dish towel—it’s been the pleading, sorrowful tone of Ronstadt’s voice that’s been shadowing me.
From “Different Drum” (which I since saw a drag queen lip sync to, during which she also did the splits and drank a glass of Tang … like you do) through Heart Like a Wheel and Mad Love and the Pirates of Penzance and the Nelson Riddle records all the way through the bajillion other Ronstadt classics (I counted; there are exactly a bajillion), I’ve worked my way to the end of her oeuvre (the album Adieu False Heart, with Ann Savoy) and started it all up again.
So this week, I am telling you to knit to Linda Ronstadt. It doesn’t matter which song or album or version of Ronstadt you choose (though I wholeheartedly recommend “Hasten Down the Wind”). Turn it up just loud enough that she’s singing louder than you are, because look, I may or may not know you, but I know you are not a better singer than Linda Ronstadt.
The song my mother sang so very, very off-key in her final days has a lyric that says “silver threads and golden needles cannot mend this heart of mine” and while the lyric means something different, I’m not so sure about the song’s inability to mend. It’s doing a pretty damned good job.