Reflecting on her career in an interview Wednesday for her new musical memoir "Simple Dreams," legendary singer Linda Ronstadt praised Minneapolis native Bernie Leadon, the Eagles co-founder who was also one of her earliest collaborators.
Ronstadt -- who was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Tuesday -- had the unique distinction of having Leadon, Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner as part of her backing band before the performers went on to form the iconic country rock group.
"Don's voice is certainly a great solo instrument and so is Glenn's, they both can sing lead," Ronstadt told me. "But Bernie's voice has a quality to it that enhances other voices. It's a strong voice and he can crank it up in the high register. It was a real important voice in terms of forming the group's vocal sound and what it made the vocal blend sound like. I always felt people didn't necessarily notice it."
Leadon was the first of the future Eagles musicians to record with Ronstadt, playing guitar on the singer's first hit, "Different Drum," with the Stone Poneys, in 1967. Given her experience with Leadon, Ronstadt believes his musicality was pivotal to the Eagles' early success.
"Glenn's a really good guitar player -- he studied R&B -- and Bernie really studied the traditional stuff in country music. It was a combination of those two things that made the country rock sound that became characteristic of the Eagles and why the group has lasted so long," Ronstadt observed.
Leadon returned to Minnesota as he reunited with his old friends on the "History of Eagles" tour, which played Target Center last month.
"Simple Dreams" was released in mid-September, shortly after Ronstadt, 67, revealed she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.