Linda Ronstadt’s Manager Felt 1 of Her Songs Was ‘Too Corny’

Linda Ronstadt’s manager had a very negative reaction to one of her songs. On the other hand, Ronstadt felt it was beautiful music. Here’s a look at how the public reacted to the song — and how it continued to impact Ronstadt’s life.

Linda Ronstadt on the floor wearing boots
Linda Ronstadt | Jim Shea/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Linda Ronstadt felt ‘ambushed’ by 1 of the songs she covered

During an interview with The New Yorker, Ronstadt discussed the creation of her album Heart Like a Wheel. Most of the songs on Heart Like a Wheel are covers of songs by famous artists like Paul Anka, Hank Williams, and James Taylor. The LP includes two of Ronstadt’s most popular songs: “You’re No Good” and her cover of The Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved.”

She discussed how she came to sing one of the more obscure songs on the record: “Heart Like a Wheel.” The song was originally performed by Kate & Anna McGarrigle. “I was just ambushed by that song,” she recalled. “I was riding with Jerry Jeff Walker in a cab, and he said, ‘I was at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and I heard these two girls singing — they were sisters. They sang a really good song. You should hear it.'”

Kate & Anna McGarrigle’s “Heart Like a Wheel”

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How Linda Ronstadt and her manager responded to the song

Ronstadt said she was impressed by the lyrics of “Heart Like a Wheel.” “[Walker] sang me the first verse — ‘Some say the heart is just like a wheel / When you bend it, you can’t mend it / But my love for you is like a sinking ship / And my heart is on that ship out in mid-ocean’ — and I just thought they were the most beautiful lyrics I’d ever heard,” she said.

Ronstadt wanted a copy of “Heart Like a Wheel.” “I said, ‘You have to send me that song,'” she remembered. “And I get this tape in the mail, reel to reel, with just piano and a cello and the two girls singing their beautiful harmonies. The manager I had at the time said it was too corny.”

Linda Ronstadt’s “Heart Like a Wheel”

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The legacy of the song and its parent album

Ronstadt remembered someone telling her the track would never become a hit. They were correct because “Heart Like a Wheel” was never a radio single, so it never reached the Billboard Hot 100. Despite this, Ronstadt said the song was huge for her, as it became a staple of her live shows.

Linda Ronstadt performing “Heart Like a Wheel” live

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The song’s parent album, Heart Like a Wheel, was a hit. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for 51 weeks. It remained on the chart longer than any of Ronstadt’s other No. 1 albums. On the other hand, The Official Charts Company reports the album didn’t chart in the United Kingdom at all. While Ronstadt’s manager thought “Heart Like a Wheel” was too corny, it found its way into the hands of many American consumers.