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Ann Hampton Callaway Sings Tribute to ‘Trailblazer’ Linda Ronstadt
Monday, November 11, 2019


Ann Hampton Callaway has been inspired by the painter Picasso, even though she paints with music.

“He had many different aspects to his talents and he didn’t do them all at once. Instead, he did them over years. He had his pink period and his blue period—all these different sides to him that he wanted to explore,” she said.

Given that, you might say Callaway is in her Linda Ronstadt period. She performs The Linda Ronstadt Songbook, tracing the 10-time Grammy winner career through 15 of her hits, including  “Blue Bayou,” You’re No Good,” “When Will I Be Loved?” and “Desperado.”

Callaway will perform the concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum. The Argyros will show the documentary film “Linda Ronstadt—The Sound of My Voice” the night before on Friday, Nov. 15.

 “When I heard that Linda was no longer able to sing her own music due to Parkinson’s Disease, it broke my heart because I know what it would be like if I could no longer sing,” Callaway said. “She’s one of the people I really admire in terms of how true she was to herself, starting her career in a male-dominated world and using her talents and musicality and friendships to build an extraordinary career.”

To wit, Callaway says, Ronstadt stood up to producers who wanted her to stick with pop rock and roll, saying, “I want to do an album of standards.” “I want to do an album of Mexican songs.” “I want to do an opera.”

“And every time she did one of these, she was an extreme success,” Callaway said.

Callaway will perform Saturday’s concert with Ronstadt’s musical director and guitarist in tow, in addition to a bass player and drummer from Los Angeles. Days later she will perform the same concert at the Kennedy Center where Ronstadt will be among the 2019 recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors a few days later.

 “Her songs are not just nostalgic. They’re still relevant,” said Callaway. “I think she was a little ahead of her time. ‘Poor Poor Pititful Me,’ one of her biggest hits, was a precursor to the Me Too movement. And when she sang, ‘Different Drum,’ she was announcing that the rules of love were changing. She was taking a song normally sung by a man to a woman and saying: II don’t know if I want to be tied down with one man.”

“She wasn’t a drug addict. She wasn’t a hard ass rock and roll star,” Callaway added. “She was a woman who loved music, and her passion for music and her friendships with talented people resulted in so many incredible projects. So, my concert is a love story on many levels.”

Callaway, who has a unique singing style blending jazz and pop, possesses an enormous passion for music herself.

A champion of the Great American Songbook, she has made her mark as a singer, pianist, composer, lyricist, arranger, actress, educator, TV host and producer.

She’s been voted “Performer of the Year” and “Best Jazz vocalist” by She received a Tony nomination for the Broadway musical “Swing.” She also wrote and sang the song to TV’s series “The Nanny.”

Her songs are featured on seven of Barbra Streisand’s recent CD’s, and she is the only composer to have collaborated with Cole Porter. She has written songs with Carole King and shared the stage with Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, Liza Minnelli and Audra McDonald.

Her new CD “Jazz Goes to the Movies,” which boasts such songs as “As Time Goes By,” is under consideration for a Grammy nomination.

In addition to Ronstadt, Callaway has performed tributes to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Barbra Streisand. And she plans to do a tribute to Peggy Lee next year celebrating the singer’s hundredth birthday.

“Ella Fitzgerald was the first jazz singer I fell in love with when I was a baby--I learned how to sing from listening to her,” she said. “Besides being one of the greatest jazz singers who ever lived, she helped the Great American Songbook become better known and more appreciated. And when you think of the difficulties she dealt with as an African-American… She was such an extraordinary artist and person, and I want more people—young people to appreciate her.”

Callaway began writing songs for Barbra Streisand after a friend heard the singer was looking for inspirational songs.

“My friend gave a song to her talent scout and he told me, ‘This is beautiful. How do you feel about rewrites?’ I said, ‘This is her song. Whatever she needs I will do.”

Callaway didn’t know it take a hundred rewrites until Streisand, a perfectionist, was satisfied.

“After so many rewrites, I said, ‘I need to talk to Barbara on the phone. I don’t understand what’s wrong.’ ” Callaway recounted. “So, there I was speaking to the Queen herself, like ohmigosh, it’s Barbra. I said, ‘Barbra, in a nutshell, what do you want me to do?’ She said, ‘I want you to make it simple but profound. The first time you hear the song you should understand it. But it should be profound enough that every time you hear it afterwards you find new meaning.’ ”

“I’ve used that advice for the rest of my songwriting career,” Callaway added. “It’s great advice for any songwriter.”

Since, it’s gone smoother, she added. The song she wrote for Streisand’s wedding only needed a few additional words. A Christmas song for Streisand’s second Christmas album needed no changes.

“I guess over time she began to trust me. And I knew what she needed in her songs,” said Callaway, who still continues to send Streisand songs.

Callaway acknowledges that some might wonder where she gets the audacity to perform a tribute to a living singer like Streisand.

“I’ve written songs for her that have been on all seven of her CDs. I’ve gotten to know her from writing with her and performing with her so it’s nice to celebrate someone with whom I’ve had that kind of personal relationship with. And I can tell a lot of fun stories that nobody else can tell,” she said.

“I also have the vocal chops to be able to sing the diverse music she has recorded over the years. She—and all these other women—are passionate about their music. That’s the kind of energy I love to share in this world. And they’ve all helped me to be a better singer.”

Callaway’s attempts to meet with Ronstadt at the singer’s San Francisco home have been thwarted by Ronstadt’s fragile health. But she has talked with her by phone.

“She said she was very happy that someone of my caliber was celebrating her music. I asked her which song speaks most to where she’s at, and she said, ‘Heart Like a Wheel.’ ”

Callaway wants to be a guiding force, as she believes Ronstadt has been. She’s written environmental songs and songs after Sept. 11. The peace anthem she wrote for President Gorbachev’s Youth peace Summit in Moscow reached 6 million people.

“We’re living in very polarized times. I’m very concerned about the world we’re living in and I feel a heightened sense of responsibility to be spiritually and emotionally open and loving and true and honest. I want to stand up in front of an audience and deliver something that will bring people together. If people’s hearts are open to my music, then it’s the heart that changes the mind,” she said.

“I respond to life with a lot of love. What do people need? What kind of music will lift up people? These are the questions I ask myself.”

She expects the songs on her new jazz CD to have an impact, though written decades ago.

“Those songs were written for films during a time when the country was at war, when people were dealing with the Depression. They seem like a very nice collection of songs to listen to during our crazy times. And the audience response has been amazing. People are falling in love with them all over again so that makes me feel good.”


Ann Hampton Callaway will perform The Linda Ronstadt Songbook at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum. Tickets start at $20, available at

The film, “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice,” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15. Tickets are $10.

Tickets are available at or at 208-726-7872.

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