Arizona legend Linda Ronstadt will be celebrated at the Kennedy Center Honors in December alongside Sally Field, “Sesame Street,” conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and Earth, Wind & Fire. 

The Tucson native, who attended the University of Arizona, became one of the the most successful female singers of her generation, selling out “stupid” arenas, as she calls them, thanks to hits as huge as “When Will I Be Loved” and “Blue Bayou.”

Having launched her career in 1967 with the breakthrough single “Different Drum,” a baroque ballad credited to the Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt, she managed a career-defining run of 10 Top 20 singles from 1975’s “You’re No Good” to 1980’s “Hurt So Bad.”

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After earning a Tony nomination in 1981 for her role as Mabel in “The Pirates of Penzance,” she moved on from the country, pop and rock sound of her hit years, recording a trilogy of albums celebrating the great American songbook with conductor Nelson Riddle in the ’80s. These were followed in by “Trio,” an 1986 collaboration with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, and 1987’s “Canciones De Mi Padre,” the singer’s first album of traditional Mexican mariachi music.

In an interview last year with azcentral, Ronstadt said, “In the ‘90s, I did my best singing. That was when I could sort of do whatever I wanted to do. I could make my voice do it.”

She’s won lifetime achievement awards from both the Grammys and the Latin Grammys. And although she prefers singing standards and Mexican folk songs to covering Elvis Costello, Ronstadt was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

By the time of that induction, she’d retired. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in late 2012, she’s unable to sing.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the singer said, “I don’t think a lot about prizes. You do the work for the work.”

The 42nd annual Kennedy Center Honors Gala will be held Dec. 7. The presenters and performers are usually kept secret from the honorees until the show.

Ronstadt took part in the tribute to the Eagles at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2016. 

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.

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