In the process of becoming a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, winner of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and subject of an upcoming biopic starring Selena Gomez, Linda Ronstadt has sold out theaters around the world. But her favorite is located on a one-way side street in Tucson, Arizona.
With a courtyard covered in vines and string lights and a main stage the size of “a good little opera house,” the 1927 Temple of Music and Art is “simply magical,” Ms. Ronstadt said. Before the onset of progressive supranuclear palsy (a Parkinson's-like disorder that ended her singing career in 2009), she could fill an auditorium with her unamplified voice (which is no surprise to anyone who has ever heard her sing “Blue Bayou” or “Long Long Time”). ”, for the legions who may have just discovered it in “The Last of Us”). She also loves the theater's proscenium: an arch that frames the stage and instantly focuses the view, “like that fireplace,” she explained, pointing to a wall near the couch where we chatted in her cozy San Francisco living room.
At 77, Ronstadt now lives in the Bay Area, near her children, but the borderlands of the Sonoran Desert where she was born and raised will always be her home. And despite the changes you see when you return every six months or so, there are still plenty of familiar local delights to start with: hot, bubbly cheese fries at El Minuto Café, frozen shrimp cocktail at Hotel Congress, giant saguaros at every corner and live entertainment of all kinds at the Fox Tucson Theater, where his father, a businessman with a renowned baritone, used to perform as Gil Ronstadt and His Star-Spangled Megaphone.
The Ronstadts have been part of the Tucson music scene since their grandfather arrived from Mexico in 1882 and helped found the Club Filarmónico Tucsonense civic band. And perhaps no venue highlights the family's cultural legacy like the former Tucson Music Hall, renamed Linda Ronstadt Music Hall in May 2022. The naming ceremony took place during a mariachi show that featured Jesús “Chuy” Guzmán, who he had recorded with Ms. Ronstadt on 1987's “Canciones de Mi Padre,” which remains the best-selling non-English-language album in U.S. history. This ode to the frontier classics she had grown up with was remastered and re-released last fall, and there may be no better soundtrack for exploring her hometown.
Here are five of his favorite places to visit in Tucson:
1. Neighborhood Bread
Their first stop is relatively new: a 15-year-old artisan bread company that earned its owner, Don Guerra, the James Beard Award for Outstanding Baker in 2022. “I always go there straight from the airport,” Ms. Ronstadt said. . , that she used to bake her own bread (the bread that appears on the back of the “Feels Like Home” album is one of her creations). She loves the traditional grains Mr. Guerra uses (white Sonoran wheat, for example), and especially his favorite order: Cubano with sesame seeds, which is so tasty that she prefers it unadorned.
“It's my favorite hotel in the world,” Ms. Ronstadt said of the iconic 1930s Spanish Colonial Revival building where she stays when she's in town. The place is rich in family history, both hers (she has attended celebrations there since she was a child) and that of her owners. Isabella Greenway, Arizona's first congresswoman and Eleanor Roosevelt's maid of honor, opened the inn's doors four generations ago. Beyond tradition, Ms. Ronstadt loves the native landscape, the piano-equipped Audubon Bar & Patio, and the fireplace and sunlight that illuminates her favorite room.
Planted on the site of an ancient indigenous settlement, this ode to more than 4,000 years of local agriculture consists of several types of gardens in one: some born from the region, others imported through migration. Native mainstays like corn, beans, and squash grow in O'odham, Yoeme, and Hohokam plots, while citrus trees perfume Spanish colonial orchards, jujube graces the Chinese garden, and leafy greens thrive. in the fields of Africa in America (to name a few). some of the hundreds of crops existing in the place). The docents are generous with samples of everything that looks ripe during the guided tours, but there are also specific tastings and food events on the calendar. “I love going there to try something fresh,” Ms. Ronstadt said. Tip: If you have homemade orange marmalade available, buy some.
4. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
In the 1950s, when his father was a founding member and his mother one of the original docents, the Desert Museum, as locals call it, was “just a small roadside attraction,” Ronstadt said. “I would go see George L. Mountainlion,” the first in a series of adopted cougars who lived there. The place has since become a renowned zoo, botanical garden, aquarium, gallery and natural history museum, but it still feels refreshingly wild. “We are not facing a perfect geometry imposed on the desert,” he observed about the animals' habitats. “Nature hates perfect geometry.”
5. Mission San Xavier del Bac
Completed in 1797 (although restoration is ongoing), this national historic landmark on Tohono O'odham lands is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona and remains an active church. “I'm an atheist, but I baptized my children there,” Ms. Ronstadt said, citing the magic she feels behind the white walls of the mission. In the kaleidoscopic interior, filled with ornate carvings, frescoes and trompe l'oeil, he lit candles with Ry Cooder, sought a mid-recording respite with Emmylou Harris and adjusted the blanket studded with the patron saint's prayer charms “to make sure make him comfortable.” Atheist or not, find something sacred there. Borrowing from the classic Latin chorale from her recently reissued Christmas album: Life is full of “mystery.”
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