Linda Ronstadt started with the Stone Poneys who managed a hit with future Monkee Mike Nesmith's "Different Drum." When the Stone Poneys bit the dust Ronstadt became part of the early '70s L.A. Country-Rock scene. Starting out, she was more Country than Rock covering Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues." Since Ronstadt didn't write, she also recorded songs written by fellow L.A. musicians, including Warren Zevon ("Poor, Poor Pitiful Me"), Jackson Browne ("Rock Me On The Water") and the Eagles ("Desperado"). Ronstadt also drew from pre-Beatles performers (Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly) and Motown, especially Smokey Robinson.
Ronstadt's career served dual purposes. She updated and re-popularized some great tunes and she gave exposure to her struggling contemporaries. During her high rolling days she managed to nail the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and date then new-age California Gov. Jerry Brown. As Brown's political star rose there was even speculation Ronstadt might become a Rock 'n' Roll first lady. Fun stuff while it lasted. Brown's career tanked shortly after Ronstadt's. Trying to cash in on New Wave, her cover of an Elvis Costello song brought Elvis' very vocal wrath. Any semblance of credibility was destroyed.
In retrospect Ronstadt took more heat than she should have. She didn't write her own songs. So what? Carly Simon did. Was that an improvement? Ronstadt usually got lumped with Simon, James Taylor and Carole King. Of that pack Ronstadt had the most spirit and she could do a Rock 'n' Roll song. Plus, she didn't dump a ton of self-indulgent B.S. on her audience.
As Ronstadt's career moved toward MOR, she recorded ballads for the "adult" market. She released Spanish language recordings paying tribute to her heritage and went back to her Country roots recording a couple of noteworthy albums with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton.
Long after it should have mattered, Ronstadt ran afoul of conservatives in the run up to the '04 election. While performing in Vegas, Ronstadt had the gall to criticize president Bush. Right wingers in the audience threw such a hissy fit that the Vegas moguls cancelled the remaining dates of Ronstadt's engagement. Ah well, so much for the 1st Amendment and free speech.
Linda Ronstadt is largely a singles artist. "Greatest Hits Volume 1" is the best place to start. "Greatest Hits Volume 2" isn't as strong as "Volume 1" but there are couple Rock 'n' Roll gems, "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me," and a cover of the Stones' "Tumbling Dice."
Many "denim and boots" folks have an affection for individual Ronstadt albums including "Heart Like A Wheel" with "You're No Good," Ronstadt's biggest hit, ""Prisoner In Disguise" and "Hasten Down The Wind." All are from the early to mid '70s.
From Ronstadt's later career, "Simple Dreams," released in '77, is the best choice with several guitar oriented pop/Rock hits including the cheery "It's So Easy."