Saturday, February 16, 2008

Different Drum, The Stone Poneys (1967)

With the exception of Martha and the Vandellas, I am horrified to realize that I have to this point featured no women's voices in this blog. That will have to be rectified in short order. Unfortunately, the early years of rock and roll were comparatively thin as far as successful women were concerned. But they were out there.

One who managed very well, thank you, was Linda Ronstadt, who became a sensation when she was with the Stone Poneys. Someone whose career I have followed ever since, her clear, larger-than-life voice was a welcome addition to the folk-rock scene, and catapulted her to solo stardom soon thereafter. Ronstadt was the only other singer besides Laura Nyro whose work I emulated (or tried to) when I took voice lessons in the 80s.

Written and originally performed by the Monkees' Mike Nesmith from the male perspective, Ronstadt's version of Different Drum turned the tables to tell the story of a free spirited woman - one who didn't need a man to complete her. The lyric Yes, and I ain't saying you ain't pretty / All I'm saying is I'm not ready / For any person place or thing / To try and pull the reins in on me / made an enduring impression on me!

According to Kenny Edwards, the Stone Poneys' co-founder and acoustic guitarist, Ronstadt (and Emmylou Harris) had the unusual knack of being able to "... pick songs ... that are perfect for them, as if they'd written them." I think that is one of the things that has really defined her throughout her career - whether it's Warren Zevon, Elvis Costello or Mike Nesmith, her versions of their songs are authentic and unforgettable. She does make them her own.

The burgeoning women's movement notwithstanding, it wouldn't have been common in those days for a woman to sing / I see no sense in this crying and grieving / We'll both live a lot longer / If you live without me / and come across convincingly. Linda could and did.

1 comment:

Just J said...

This was one of my favorites too.