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Linda Ronstadt on her new book 'Feels Like Home'

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Linda Ronstadt's "Feels Like Home" is an album of loves for the high desert of Sonora and her hometown of Tucson, shown through photos by Bill Stein and pages of her own recollections of family and friends and even - or maybe that's especially - recipes that bring family and friends together with echoes of each other.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S SO EASY")

LINDA RONSTADT: (Singing) It's so easy to buy love. It's so easy to fall in love. People tell me love's for fools. Here I go, breaking all the rules. It seems so easy. It's so easy. It's so easy. Yeah.

SIMON: That's just one of her 38 bestselling singles over a career that encompasses 24 albums, Grammy Awards, honors and big-time collaborators. "Feels Like Home" is written in collaboration with Lawrence Downes. And Linda Ronstadt joins us now. Thank you so much for being with us.

RONSTADT: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: I am dazzled by your description of what the sun feels like in Sonora.

RONSTADT: Feels like needles.

SIMON: Just really bores into you, doesn't it?

RONSTADT: Oh, yeah, penetrating your bones. So does the cold. People don't realize how cold it is in the desert. People get hypothermia all the time. The migrants that are walking through the desert, that's a brutal march.

SIMON: You can get all four seasons in one day, I guess.

RONSTADT: You can. (Laughter) I've gone into a movie - the sun was shining brightly - and come out, and it's - the temperature had dropped 23, 30 points. And you're freezing to death, and I - and you didn't bring a jacket 'cause it was hot when you left.

SIMON: Yeah. Tell us about your all-day family picnics.

RONSTADT: That was one of my favorite things to do. Somebody finds a good site on somebody's ranch or out in the country somewhere. And you make a mesquite fire and put a grill on it. And there's conversation that goes on and - cracks about the food. And then, somebody gets out a guitar. And you start playing a little bit. Pretty soon, they're singing a song we know, and everybody starts to harmonize. And it's not a performance. It's not like being on stage. It's just being there in the room or in the - under the trees with good food and good friends. When we were kids, we didn't have to be sent off to bed. My dad would start to sing, and we'd know we were up for another good hour.

SIMON: (Laughter).

RONSTADT: We usually fell asleep on someone's lap. But my dad had a beautiful voice.

SIMON: Yeah. You learn so much about your family here. Could I get you to talk about your family - what I'll call a mixed family - European family that married into Mexico, settled in Arizona.

RONSTADT: Well, when they first got there, they settled in Mexico. But Arizona was Mexico then, too...

SIMON: Yeah.

RONSTADT: ...And became Mexican by virtue of politics. And the border moved. So we all say we didn't move; the border moved.

SIMON: You talk about when you were growing up, people could cross the border, go back-and-forth pretty easily.

RONSTADT: We used to go down for lunch. It just was friendly. People knew each other.

SIMON: Not easy to go back-and-forth across the border these days, is it?

RONSTADT: No, it takes forever. It doesn't take as long to get into Mexico, but it takes a while. And then, coming back is - there's just a line for a mile of trucks waiting to get inspected on the way across the border. And then, there's razor wire at the border. And Nogales is the one border town that I've seen the most of. It was just a pretty, little town - you know? - like, sort of hilly. And now it's got razor wire everywhere that's trapping little animals and dangerous for children.

SIMON: Linda, if there was a message you could give to America and the world about the border, what would it be?

RONSTADT: Oh, get to know your neighbors. You might be surprised at how much you like them. It's so unfair. There are - people that come - that make that trip - it's so dangerous to get - and if you come from El Salvador, my gosh. You have to go through one, two, three countries to get here. And they are having a terrible drought. People are starving. And they're going to go someplace to survive. They want to live. They want to feed their families.

SIMON: You announced a few years ago you'd been diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy.

RONSTADT: Right. It's a barrel of monkeys.

SIMON: Oh. I'm sorry, but I think lots of people are wondering, what's it like for Linda Ronstadt to not be able to sing?

RONSTADT: Well, I used to love to knit.

(LAUGHTER)

RONSTADT: And I would do that when I stopped singing. And that's - I can't do that. I don't have the motor skills for it. And I'll tell you, it's really a drag not being able to when - today, I went to see Emmylou Harris. We used to sing over the phone together, you know?

SIMON: Oh.

RONSTADT: And we'd just - she harmonizes natural as anything. And I can't harmonize with her.

SIMON: Yeah.

RONSTADT: And then, when I go home to my family, I can't sing at all. And that was what held us together - you know? - 'cause some people in my family are Republicans. So I didn't hold it against them as long as we could sing together.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh.

RONSTADT: I really miss singing with other people.

SIMON: Well, people miss you singing, but we like you're talking, too. So while I have the chance, everybody listening can make this recipe in your book. I'm going to do it, like, in the next few hours - El Minuto's cheese crisps.

RONSTADT: No, no. Oh. Well, you got to have the right tortillas for that.

SIMON: Yeah, you have your tortillas. And then, after that, you just - what do you do?

RONSTADT: Well, you grate the - I use two types of cheese - longhorn cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese. And make sure you get a lot of cheese on there. And I think it's good to butter it first. Lightly butter it.

SIMON: Butter? Really? Oh, my word.

RONSTADT: Yeah, light butter, then cheese.

SIMON: And so you have some El Minuto's cheese crisps and then take a nap?

RONSTADT: If it's not that heavy.

SIMON: (Laughter).

RONSTADT: It's a thin coating of cheese, but it has to be there.

SIMON: What do you think of when you look at the sun and the mountains and the landscape of Sonora?

RONSTADT: Well, I think it's been there for a long time before I was there, and it's going to be for a long time after I'm here. So it's sort of humbling. I like to be able to see for a long distance 'cause I don't like living in a forest 'cause I can't see what's coming up on me. I love the mountains. This way I can tell where I am. If I'm going to places, like Ohio, with no mountains, I don't know how to orient myself in space.

SIMON: You could stop anyone and say, I'm Linda Ronstadt. Where am I? They'd be happy to help.

RONSTADT: Yeah (laughter). You'd be surprised.

SIMON: Linda Ronstadt, her new book with photos by Bill Stein, a collaboration from Lawrence Downes, "Feels Like Home." Thank you so much for joining us.

RONSTADT: Thank you so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WILLIN'")

RONSTADT: (Singing) I've been warped by the rain, driven by the snow. I'm drunk and dirty, don't you know? But I'm still willing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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