When newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Linda Ronstadt officially retired from singing in 2009, she ended a stellar career that began in 1965.
Over those four decades, Ronstadt worked with some of the top names in the music business, creating a body of work that included 38 Billboard Hot 100 singles and 10 top 10 albums, three of which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart. She also won 11 Grammy Awards, two Country Music Awards, an Emmy and was nominated for a Tony and a Golden Globe.
Ronstadt’s extensive repertoire, which includes folk, rock, country, pop standards and even opera and Broadway, will be the focus of a tribute show, “True Blue Bayou,” at the AllWays Theatre, opening Thursday, July 17, and running over the next two weekends.
Dorian Rush, whose past performances have included tributes to Carole King and Janis Joplin, will sing a wide range of Ronstadt’s best-known songs, backed by a three-piece band.
With supporting visual projections, Rush also will narrate many of the highlights of Ronstadt’s career, sporting some of the singer’s hair and clothing styles.
“I am so excited to be doing this,” Rush said. “It’s been really interesting because Linda did many types of music. You have to have a big range to sing her songs, and I’m running the gamut here. It’s stretching my abilities vocally, but I’m doing my best to do everything in her original keys and try to give some authenticity to it.”
Among the selections Rush said she will perform during the 90-minute set are “Different Drum,” Ronstadt’s first hit with the Stone Poneys; “You’re No Good,” one of her No. 1 singles; and her top-selling cover of Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou.”
She also plans to include a Mexican song (in Spanish), a Cajun song (in French) and a selection from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “The Pirates of Penzance,” which Ronstadt sang on Broadway in the early 1980s.
Rush also will sing duets Ronstadt sang with Aaron Neville (“I Don’t Know Much”) and James Ingram (“Somewhere Out There”) in the late ’80s, accompanied vocally by her drummer Michael Sollars.
There also will be some tunes Ronstadt sang on her “Trio” album with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.
In addition to Sollars, Rush will be backed up by Gavin MacArthur on guitars and Brandon Brunious on bass.
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease several years ago and unable to sing up to the level of her prime, Ronstadt retired. Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, she now resides in San Francisco.
In what Rush termed “a happy coincidence,” MacArthur was in San Francisco recently and met a lawyer who is good friends with Ronstadt. “So now she’s aware that we’re doing the tribute show, which is really cool. She’s really happy about it, and she said if we ever bring the show to San Francisco, she’d want to see it.”
Some of the “inside stories” MacArthur heard from Ronstadt’s friend will be incorporated into Rush’s narrative during the show, she explained.
Jonathan Mares, manager of the AllWays Theatre and producer of “True Blue Bayou,” said, “This is going to be a full-fledged show. We’re going all-out on this one. Dorian is going to wear different outfits, different hairstyles, the whole works. I read the script, and it’s going to be really good.”
Mares, who signed a two-year lease on the theater in April, acknowledged that this show is part of an ongoing series of singer homages he is envisioning during his tenure.
He produced Rush and Lisa Picone in the Carole King tribute in January, and on Aug. 28 and 29, he is producing one on Donna Summer starring Anais St. John.
A dollar from each ticket sold will be donated to research on Parkinson’s disease.
“Dorian suggested it, and I thought it was a great idea,” Mares said. “It’s the least we can do, and if we get a really good turnout for the show, we’ll have a nice little chunk of change we can send their way.”