By Ernie McCray
Oh, I was in such a mellow groove the other night, just chilling with my wife and our kids, out at Humphrey’s by the Bay, a perfect place to be on such a balmy San Diego eve, listening to an old soulmate of mine, Linda Ronstadt, just pretty-fy, if you will, the evening air with music and song. I mean she was on.
Linda kicked off the set with “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” giving it just the right attitude, flashing me back to my childhood in the 40’s growing up in Tucson, escaping the summer sun with a glass of cold kool-aid (red), listening to the Nat King Cole Trio sing that old jazz standard via my victrola - in the same hip upbeat way.
Then she slowly, with inimitable incredible ease, unleashed the ranges of her magnificent voice, those shattering highs and soothing lows and all the funky nuances of tone in between. Oh, her singing weakens my knees and I just gave into her artistry, moving my body with the beat, patting my thighs and tapping my feet, resisting singing out loud since everybody had paid mucho bucks for their seat. I was a man, in those moments, at peace with the world.
And then the scariest thing happened. Linda uttered a bit of praise for Michael Moore and in the next moment, without a hint of warning, before I could say “Amen,” a man yells at Linda like she was an umpire who had made a call that cost his team the World Series and him his life’s savings. This heckling dude literally startled me out of my seat. He told her: “Stop the political bullshit and just sing!” Then he and other jeering people fled the premises looking like mimes as “Desperado” drowned the sounds of their hideous hateful display. Has narrowmindedness overtaken the USA?
Now as for me, I showed up expecting Linda to make a comment about something going on in society. She always has. And she does it from the heart, softly, openly, thoughtfully, never bashing anyone - just like the other night. It’s not in her blood to hurt anyone.
I know from experience that Ms. Ronstadt was nurtured in love and she and I bonded before she was born, back when my grandfather would say something to me like: “Boy, take this money and go to Ronstadt’s Hardware and get me a bucket o’ six penny nails.” And I’d hustle because I knew an ice cream cone or some kind of goody was in the deal and that in my visit to the Ronstadt store I would never be subjected to that “What can I getcha, eightball?” kind of attitude that little black boys like me often had to put up with back then.
Ronstadt’s Hardware was so refreshing on a hot Tucson day, one of the few places where I could fully relax, untaxed by my color. One of the few places where I saw that good people come in all colors. And before I knew who Linda Ronstadt was she had already, on her family’s coattails, entered my heart and soul and, over the years, as a follower of her music and views, I’ve come to love and appreciate her unconditionally. So when they yelled at her the other night they might as well have been yelling at me because I, like Linda, want a better world, a world where those who bring us the truth aren’t persecuted. And if the truth be told, Michael Moore is, as she declared: “a great American patriot who spreads the truth.” I mean if what Webster says is true, that “a patriot is one who loves and defends his or her country,” then I cannot think of anyone who has tried harder than Mr. Moore to defend our nation against some of our worse enemies: apathy and ignorance and sometimes downright stupidity.
To people like those who interrupted Linda’s brilliant performance I say: Hey, leave my homegirl be. Open your eyes to the reality that Linda Ronstadt is an artist and singing to us and sharing thoughts with us, political or otherwise, in entertaining ways, is what an artist does. And nobody does it any better than she does and in so doing she’s demonstrating what true patriotism is all about. Speaking out.