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Linda Ronstadt covered a lot of great songs; however, she wasn’t always confident about her interpretations of them. For example, she once joked her interpretation of a classic rock song would cause the artist who originally sang it to throw up. Interestingly, the artist behind the original song discussed how he felt about explaining their meanings.

Linda Ronstadt wearing boots and sitting on a floor
Linda Ronstadt | Jim Shea/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Linda Ronstadt revealed what she thought this classic rock song was about

In 1978, Ronstadt released her album Living in the USA. The album included covers of a number of very famous songs, including Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” and Chuck Berry’s “Back in the U.S.A.” One of the more obscure tracks Ronstadt covered was Warren Zevon’s “Mohammed’s Radio.” Zevon might be most known today for his hit “Werewolves of London.”

During an interview with Rolling Stone, Ronstadt discussed her interpretation of “Mohammed’s Radio.” “He uses the metaphor of Mohammed’s radio like … it’s omnipresent and it’s powerful, almost godlike,” she said. “He uses Mohammed instead of Jesus or Buddha. He just happened to pick Mohammed, I guess. God, Warren probably will be throwing up if he reads this and I’m interpreting his song for him.”

Ronstadt then interpreted individual lyrics of the song. “The first verse deals with problems of living and then, ‘Don’t it make you want to rock & roll,'” she said. “When it comes right down to it, I’d rather just turn on the radio and crank it up loud and just get off on the music.”

Linda Ronstadt’s “Mohammed’s Radio”

Subsequently, she interpreted other parts of the song. “And the last verse says, ‘Oh, everybody is desperate trying to make ends meet, work all day, still can’t pay the price of gasoline and meat,'” she said. “And there’s one line you just have to yell: ‘Alas, their lives are incomplete.’ It’s like a double twist. It’s curious to me that they’re incomplete.”

What Warren Zevon thought about explaining the meanings of his songs

Ronstadt’s interpretation can’t be validated or invalidated by anything Zevon said. During an interview with the Sun-Sentinel, Zevon said he wrote songs for adults. He didn’t like to explain his songs because he felt that would take away from their meaning.

Warren Zevon’s “Mohammed’s Radio”

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How the world reacted to the album with Warren Zevon’s ‘Mohammed’s Radio’ and the album with Linda Ronstadt’s cover

Zevon’s “Mohammed’s Radio” didn’t appear on the Billboard Hot 100 because it wasn’t a single. Its parent album, Warren Zevon, reached No. 189 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for two weeks.

Ronstadt never released her version of “Mohammed’s Radio” as a single, so it never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 either. On the other hand, the song’s parent album, Living in the USA, was a hit. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 32 weeks. While Ronstadt didn’t think Zevon would like her interpretation of “Mohammed’s Radio,” her cover certainly reached more people than the original.