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AbledConditions story headline shows a soft-lit photo of Linda Ronstadt with the headline: Parkinson's Disease: Linda Ronstadt - A legendary voice sings no more

 

Singer reveals a years-long battle with tick disease and Parkinson’s Disease

UPDATE: September 13: Linda Ronstadt – ABC World News Tonight Person of the Week

In an exclusive interview with ABC World News Tonight anchor Diane Sawyer, Linda Ronstadt reveals that she suspected she might have Parkinson’s Disease for the last 12 years. 

In her interview with AARP, Ronstadt said she had suffered from Lyme Disease after she was bitten by a tick that she got from one of her cows. Other persons with Parkinson’s, such as Michael J. Fox, have also reported suffering from Lyme Disease after a tick bite and going on to develop Parkinson’s Disease.

Ronstadt explains the effects Parkinson’s has had on her singing voice and why it’s now left her unable to sing in public. She displays her characteristic humor and a courage few people knew she possessed.

 

 

Linda Ronstadt has been one of the most distinctive voices in popular music, from her time fronting the Stone Ponys in the Sixties, through her solo successes in the following decades, including the phenomenal Trio albums with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

But now that voice has been silenced, at least when it comes to singing, because she has now revealed to the world that she has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. 

 

Photo of the cover of Linda Ronstadt's new autobiography 'Simple Dreams' published by Simon and Schuster and Free Press. Click here to buy the book at Amazon.com.The revelation isn’t contained in Ronstadt’s new autobiography Simple Dreams , (published by SImon and Schuster and Free Press), because the official diagnosis wasn’t confirmed until months after the final submissions for the book. You can click on the book’s cover photo to purchase it at Amazon.com.

 

From Wikipedia: ‘Parkinson’s Disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. The motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease result from the death of dopamine-generating cells in the substantia nigra, a region of the midbrain; the cause of this cell death is unknown. Early in the course of the disease, the most obvious symptoms are movement-related; these include shakingrigidityslowness of movement and difficulty with walking and gait. Later, thinking and behavioral problems may arise, with dementia commonly occurring in the advanced stages of the disease, whereas depression is the most common psychiatric symptom. Other symptoms include sensory, sleep and emotional problems. Parkinson’s disease is more common in older people, with most cases occurring after age 50.

 

A montage of photos from Google Search shows the covers of some of Linda Ronstadt's albums.

A montage of some of Linda Ronstadt’s album covers from Google Search.

 

The AARP Interview with Linda Ronstadt

In a wide-ranging interview with AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) in advance of the coming release of her autobiography Simple Dreams, the notoriously private Ronstadt lifts the veil on her growing health challenges. And, despite the heartbreaking end to her singing career, she manages to face it with her characteristic sense of humor:

‘Though her book mentions that her voice began to change at age 50, Ronstadt, now 67, had never offered a solid explanation for her 2009 retirement (the book does cryptically mention a time when she had a “still-healthy voice”).

Ronstadt opens up about the life-altering news she did not put in her new book — she has Parkinson’s disease — and its tragic side effect: “I can’t sing a note.”

The winner of 11 Grammys during a 40-year career that produced more than 30 albums, Ronstadt recorded her final CD (Adieu, False Heart, with Cajun musician Ann Savoy) in 2006. Three years later — on Nov. 7, 2009 — she gave what she calls her last concert at the Brady Memorial Auditorium in San Antonio.

After that, Ronstadt simply declined all invitations to do more.

In late 2012, when a friend asked her to sing on a tribute album to Jackson Browne, a close friend from her L.A. days, she wrote in an email: “I have a serious case of being 66 years old and am completely retired from singing. Of course, one is always pleased to be asked, so tell them I said thank you.”

What old friends and fans did not know is that for the past seven or eight years, Ronstadt had suffered from symptoms that suggested Parkinson’s disease. Eight months ago, a medical diagnosis confirmed it. Never one to shy from a challenge, Ronstadt faces her disease with the determination to push for more and better treatments, both for herself and for other Parkinson’s patients. (For more about Parkinson’s disease, see the box on page 4.)

In the exchange that follows, Ronstadt assesses her career and explains how her Parkinson’s was detected.

Q: You wrote your “musical memoir,” Simple Dreams, entirely yourself. Was that difficult for you?

A: Well, I’d never written anything longer than a thank-you note before. I never kept a diary or a journal. But I’m a reader, and I can put a coherent sentence together, so I thought I could make it honest and clear.

Q: You talk in the book about your love for animals and your pet, Luna the cow.

A: Oh, Luna! Yeah, I loved her — she was such a nice old girl — but I got a tick from her, and that’s probably why I’m sick.

Q: You mean you have a tick disease now?

A: Well, I had two very bad tick bites in the ’80s, and my health has never recovered since then.

Q: Is that why we don’t see so much of you?

A: I can’t sing. I have Parkinson’s disease, which may be a result of that tick bite. They’re saying now they think there’s a relationship between tick bites and Parkinson’s disease — that a virus can switch on a gene, or cause neurodegeneration. So I can’t sing at all.

In fact I couldn’t sing for the last five or six years I appeared on stage, but I kept trying. I kept thinking, “What if I tried singing upside down? Or standing on my head? Or while juggling? [Laughs] Maybe I’d be able to sing better then.”

So I didn’t know why I couldn’t sing — all I knew was that it was muscular, or mechanical. Then, when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I was finally given the reason. I now understand that no one can sing with Parkinson’s disease. No matter how hard you try. And in my case, I can’t sing a note.

Q: When were you diagnosed with Parkinson’s?

A: About eight months ago — just when I was writing the acknowledgments for the book, actually. I got the initial diagnosis, but they didn’t confirm it until six months later. I didn’t want to write about it in the book, because I wasn’t sure.

Q: You noticed the symptoms in your voice before anything else?

A: Yes, but it didn’t occur to me to go to a neurologist. I think I’ve had it for seven or eight years already, because I’ve had the symptoms that long. Then I had a shoulder operation, so I thought that must be why my hands were shaking. Parkinson’s is very hard to diagnose. So when I finally went to a neurologist and he said, “Oh, you have Parkinson’s disease,” I was completely shocked. I was totally surprised. I wouldn’t have suspected that in a million, billion years.’

Read the rest of the AARP interview with Linda Ronstadt

 

A photo shows Linda Ronstadt sitting on a bench in a changing room chatting with Linda McCartney while Paul McCartney plays a guitar riff for Peter Asher, Ronstadt's producer and former member of the 60's singing duo Peter and Gordon during the 1976 Wings Over America Tour.

Linda Ronstadt chats with Linda McCartney while Paul McCartney plays a guitar riff for Ronstadt’s producer Peter Asher in the backstage changing room during the 1976 Wings Over America tour. Asher was formerly one-half of the 60’s singing duo Peter and Gordon for whom McCartney wrote the song ‘World Without Love’.

 

In addition to her interview with Diane Sawyer, Linda also sat down with Robin Roberts on ABC’s Good Morning America to talk about her memoir Simple Dreams and her diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease:

 

 

Could voice therapy help Linda Ronstadt to sing again?

The Internet has been all abuzz about Ronstadt’s interview and many people in the field of Parkinson’s treatment and therapy have expressed sadness at her declaration that she can’t sing anymore. Many have wondered if she has tried vocal or singing therapy.

Linda Ronstadt only hints at problems with the ‘mechanics’ and the muscles involved with singing, and for someone who has been blessed with one of the most naturally beautiful voices in contemporary music, it’s got to be incredibly frustrating for her. Not to mention her demands on pitch, tone, vibrato and other technical elements of singing would be incredibly high, given her professional pedigree. So her assertion that she can no longer ‘sing a note’ may well be true.

Marsha Kogut, MS, CCC-SLP, a speech pathologist at New York Institute of Technology’s Adele Smithers Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Center says most individuals with Parkinson’s disease exhibit symptoms of soft volume, hoarse and breathy vocal quality, monotone, imprecise articulation (perceived as mumbling) and other problems modifying their speech rates.

She says says individuals with Parkinson’s disease often find relief and success with certain intensive voice therapies.

Although Kogut is not familiar with the specifics of Ronstadt’s case and cannot speak directly on Ronstadt’s condition, she regularly treats individuals with Parkinson’s disease and has had favorable results, particularly with the use of the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment program, an exercise-based behavioral program with a focus on the speech motor system. Kogut and her colleagues work with patients at the center, part of NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. The center’s guiding concept is to provide comprehensive care to help people improve and maintain quality of life while living with Parkinson’s disease.

LSVT trains individuals to target loudness as a way to trigger improvement of all systems and generalize them to daily communication.”

As part of the therapy process, Kogut often uses singing exercises to enhance the vocal and respiratory mechanisms. She says these exercises can be therapeutic and are a fun way to enhance a tedious therapy session.

Ronstadt says she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease eight months ago but began to show symptoms eight years ago.

“The most important thing is to consult with a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders who will tailor the appropriate medications and strongly encourage the initiation of the rehabilitation process,” says Kogut. “Almost anyone can benefit from this program. Although there are some prognostic variables that may indicate that certain individuals may have better outcomes, speech therapy is an essential part of improving the communication process for Parkinson’s patients.”

Adds Kogut: “Individuals with impaired cognitive abilities can benefit from this program, which encourages patients to talk loudly. As a result of reduced amounts of the neuro transmitter dopamine in the brain, Parkinson’s patients have reduced movements in all parts of their body.

LSVT trains the individual’s brain to use the command “talk loud” and the vocal system will respond. Individuals with PD lose the automatic ability to talk loud – they have to command their body to do that. The individual learns to implement the talk loud command, use increased conscious effort, and take deep breaths, which results in family and friends being able to understand them once again.”

Kogut is a practising speech language pathologist since 1975, with expertise in working with the adult neurologically impaired population.

Source: NYIT Newsroom

 

AARP: Linda Ronstadt: New Parkinson’s Therapies May Help You To Sing

Even the AARP’s Blog contains opinions from others on whether voice and singing therapy might benefit Linda Ronstadt:

 

An excerpt from the AARP blog discusses whether new Parkinson's therapies could help Linda Ronstadt to sing again and includes a photo of the members of the Parkinson Voice Project in Dallas in performace while the accompanying text reads, “No one can sing with Parkinson’s disease. No matter how hard you try,” lamented legendary singer Linda Ronstadt, who was recently diagnosed with the condition. That may be true for Ronstadt, but speech pathologists and other Parkinson’s experts say there is enormous hope for most people.  “It made me very sad to hear her say that,” says Samantha Elandary, founder and CEO of the nonprofit therapy group Parkinson Voice Project in Dallas, which has helped patients to sing. “Twenty years ago, speech therapy didn’t work for Parkinson’s patients. But now we know that voice treatment does work, but it has to be a specific kind.”  Whether it could help someone of Ronstadt’s stature regain her full singing range is unclear, but vocal therapy “is very effective,” says neurologist Zoltan Mari, M.D., interim director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins University medical school in Baltimore.

 

Read the rest of the article at the AARP’s Blog

On NBC’s ‘The Today Show’, NBC News Chief Medical Editor, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, provided additional insight into Linda Ronstadt’s proclamation that she can no longer ‘sing a note’: “People forget that vocal chords are muscles, so if Parkinson’s causes stiffness and slowing down of the muscles, there is no reason to think your voice wouldn’t be affected too. “If you have to rely on the fine muscle quivering of a vocal chord, that means that a singer can’t do what he or she wants to do.”

Linda Ronstadt joins Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox, among celebrities also battling Parkinson’s.

Fox turned out to be 1 of 4 cast members of a Canadian sitcom diagnosed with Parkinson’s under the age of 40, prompting investigations into the cause of the cluster. More recently, the bio of the sitcom’s Director, Don Williams, claims, ‘Current evidence suggests that as many as eight crew and cast members on the project have developed Parkinson’s symptoms’, leading many to speculate about an environmental trigger such as pesticides or previous toxic landfill material possibly being in the ground beneath the studios.

Also, in a previous appearance on David Letterman’s talk show in 1997, Fox claimed he previously had Lyme DIsease from a tick bite, saying, ‘I got a dose of the Lyme. You feel like crap. l got bit by a tick,’ he confessed. ‘They’re really tiny. Then what happens is you get this little red mark. You think it’s a rash or you think it’s some bad thing, but it’s a tick bite. Then you are doomed because it’s already too late.’

Keep in mind, Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991 and didn’t disclose it to the public until 1999. If the tick bite and Lyme Disease part of the story is true, then Linda Ronstadt would be the second celebrity to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease following a bout with Lyme Disease, strengthening the theories about a correlation between the two conditions.

Banner for the new Michael J. Fox show 2 hour Season Premier, Thursday September 26, shows Michael in a suit and tie being kissed on the cheek by his co-star with other cast members dancing about in the background. Click here to visit the show's website at NBC.

 

For many years it was also thought that actress Katharine Hepburn had Parkinson’s because of the tremor in her voice and body movements. She set the record straight in the 1993 TV documentary Katharine Hepburn: All About Me (1993) (TV), which she narrated herself, ‘Now to squash a rumor. No, I don’t have Parkinson’s. I inherited my shaking head from my grandfather Hepburn. I discovered that whiskey helps stop the shaking. Problem is, if you’re not careful, it stops the rest of you too. My head just shakes, but I promise you, it ain’t gonna fall off!’.

In 2003, her niece Katharine Houghton, confirmed in a television interview that it was not Parkinson’s disease, but a progressive ,albeit treatable, neurological disorder called essential tremor, that used to be called palsy. Her aunt’s form of it was called a familial tremor, which is inherited. Children of a parent with the disease have a 50 percent chance of inheriting a gene that causes it. 

Linda Ronstadt’s memoir, “Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir” is slated for release on September 17, 2013. In the book, she does not discuss her diagnosis of Parkinson’s or her battle with the disease.

 

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