Linda Ronstadt’s second memoir, Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands, might as well have been a cookbook.
Her friend CC Goldwater, whose grandfather was Arizona politician Barry Goldwater, suggested that a cookbook by the superstar musician could raise funds for research into Parkinson’s disease, which Ronstadt was diagnosed with in 2012.
“I said, ‘I don’t cook,'” Ronstadt said, laughing. “She said, ‘Oh, it’s fine.'”
A plan was hatched to collect recipes from the Goldwaters, the Ronstadts and family friend Bill Steen, who provides the photos in Feels Like Home.
There are some family recipes in “Feels Like Home,” but over time it morphed into a broader celebration of the Arizona legend’s roots.
It’s a departure from her first memoir, Simple Dreams, which was more focused on Ronstadt’s musical career.
The Arizona Republic spoke to Ronstadt, who lives in San Francisco, about writing the book with Lawrence Downes, how growing up in Tucson shaped her, and the importance of family.
From Tucson to the Rock Hall:Linda Ronstadt’s lifelong love affair with music
The idea behind “A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands”
How did the concept for this book come about?
Lawrence wanted me to do an article on My Arizona. I said, “Let’s do My Sonora Desert,” because it’s a real region on both sides of the border and we can go to Mexico. We did and we had a really good time.
Having read both memoirs, I like that they are such different books even though they partly cover the same area.
Well, Simple Dreams is about my musical process. It’s sort of because my childhood was part of my musical process. In fact, it was inseparable. But I just wrote about something else.
Could you talk about how important it is to share this side of your history—your Mexican-American heritage and life on the frontiers?
We are really dealing with three different cultures that have the same roots. There is Mexico. There’s the United States. And there are Mexican-Americans who have had a tremendous impact on the people up here. Mexican food has taken over. You can get a taco anywhere. A Sonoran hot dog is not that ubiquitous in my opinion. But I eat them (laughs). I don’t eat hot dogs and hamburgers. But a Sonoran hot dog is too good to pass up.
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Linda Ronstadt’s musical upbringing in Tucson
You often hear about successful musicians who come from musical families, but it seems your family was more musical than most.
Almost everyone played the piano back then. It was just one thing that happened with kids. They took piano lessons and practiced. There was no radio. So you had to make your own music. And people did. It might not be really good. But I think everyone should have their own music to play and sing. It won’t be Paul Simon. But we have Paul Simon for that. And he’s doing a good job.
I love the passage where you write about your family trio performing at Cele Peterson’s downtown clothing store.
They had an early bird sale. It started at 6 a.m. Cele and my mother were friends. And she thought it would give us a little boost. what it did. People would fight over cashmere sweaters or girdles or whatever women buy at these sales and we would sing in the background. (Laughs.)
Did you ever come to Phoenix to perform before moving to California as a teenager?
We auditioned at some club, I can’t remember what it was called. We did well and they offered us a job, but my brother went to the police and he didn’t think they would approve because he was hanging out in a beatnik valley.
Why “Feels Like Home” was the perfect title for the book
I know it’s a Randy Newman song that you’ve recorded more than once. But what attracted you to the title “Feels Like Home”?
Well, it just seemed like a good way to summarize what the book was about. And I think family is important, the things your ancestors went through.
How did growing up in the frontiers and traveling from Tucson to Mexico shape you?
We drove through a landscape that is typical for me. I thought everyone had cacti in their garden. But it turns out they didn’t. I’ve always been proud of where I come from and where I come from. i love toucson
Do you miss the desert?
Oh yeah. The developers plowed up a lot of desert land and didn’t build houses on it or bothered to plant ground cover. So there are always clouds of dust. The last time I drove from Tucson to Phoenix, I was in a sandstorm for two hours.
And that fence they built. That stupid fence that doesn’t keep people out because people fly in. He cuts scars in the desert and causes erosion. It drains the water table because they use all the water to make concrete. And it prevents animals from migrating. You have to migrate to live.
An American rancher is going to buy 2,000 acres in Montana and build his house right in the middle so that he is completely isolated. Mexicans build their house in a village and share the grassland.
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Ronstadt at the Border Wall: It’s worthless. And it’s cruel’
You grew up crossing the border to visit family on your father’s side.
If you went further south than Nogales you needed a permit, and the permit only lasted until this or that date. So I would get the permit, drive over and come back, it wasn’t this incredibly long line of trucks that takes hours to get through. You just showed your passport and you were there.
There was no point in putting up a fence. Some of these fences go straight through ranchers’ land. One of them goes right through the Tohono O’odham Reservation. It’s absurd. It cost a fortune. And it’s worthless. And it’s cruel. And they increased the cruelty by separating families.
What do you think should be done about the situation at the border?
I think we should make their job easier. They’re not taking jobs away from Americans. They do jobs that Americans wouldn’t do. They come on work visas, they earn money to send to their families, and then they go back. It couldn’t be more ideal. It would be more ideal to pay them fairly, I suppose.
You write that much of the Tucson you knew in the ’50s and ’60s was demolished for tarmac and urban sprawl.
They destroyed a church to be built (Tucson Convention Center), a so-called community center. And it was such a beautiful section. The buildings were made of adobe and directly on the street. Now people pay a lot of money to get such a building, but it was for poor people. And after they tore it down, the two that were still available were rented out to lawyers and financiers. Rich people live there now.
It’s pretty clear in the book that even though you don’t live in Tucson anymore, you still have a very strong connection to the area.
Well I have a lot of family and I go every year. Sometimes a few times a year. I love the Arizona Inn. I can not get enough of this.
“Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands”
Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands is available Tuesday, October 4th at where books are sold from online retailers to independent bookstores, including the Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix and Tempe.
Copies of the book will be available at the Fox Theater in Tucson
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.
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