Linda Ronstadt conquered the charts and stole the hearts of many with her rendition of “Blue Bayou.” Ronstadt’s version of this timeless song was released off her 1977 studio album, Simple Dreams.
In the United States, the song hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and held that position for four weeks. It also peaked at No. 2 on Billboard Country Singles and No. 3 on Billboard Adult Contemporary. It had the same success in Canada, reaching the second spot on three charts: Country, Adult Contemporary, and Top Singles.
“Blue Bayou” also helped Ronstadt earn two Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Story Behind The Classic Song and How It Landed To Linda Ronstadt
Written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson, “Blue Bayou” is a melancholy ballad about yearning for the simpler times.
“I’m going back someday. Come what may to Blue Bayou. Where the folks are fun and the world is mine, on Blue Bayou. Where those fishing boats with their sails afloat. If I could only see that familiar sunrise through sleepy eyes, how happy I’d be,” the song goes.
Orbison and Melson had an inkling of the song during one road trip from Arkansas to Texas.
“Take a song like ‘Blue Bayou’ for instance. That’s simply a song about being on the road. And that is really a happy song. It probably sounds very strange to you for me to say that,” Orbison said. “The fellow’s bound and determined to get back to where you sleep all day and the catfish play and the sailing boats and the girls and all that stuff. It’s a beautiful thought.”
Orbison has written numerous songs about yearning and loneliness, but there was a lot more to them in most cases. “Now granted that it is a sad song, a lonely song, but it’s a loneliness that precedes happiness. And I’m not sitting here trying to tell you that I don’t sing lonely songs or anything like that,” Orbison added.
Orbison originally recorded “Blue Bayou” in 1961 and was released two years later from his album In Dreams. Featuring classic ’60s pop harmony and a quite extraordinary fluidity, it only peaked at No. 29.
“Blue Bayou” has since been recorded by several other artists, and Ronstadt’s version is often known as compellingly hers, later becoming her signature song.
But it was actually Ronstadt’s producer and longtime collaborator J.D. Souther who taught her “Blue Bayou” during one of their brainstorming sessions.
“J.D. and Glenn [Frey, of The Eagles] simultaneously suggested [the song] to me sorta like Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum,” Ronstadt said in the 1977 issue of Circus Magazine. “We sat up all night talking like mice at incredible speeds, playing and singing half the song we knew, all of us singing in different keys. I’ve got a tape of it, and it’s the fastest tape I’ve ever heard. It sounds like R2D2.”
The song’s success garnered Ronstadt quite a distinction that Dickson’s Baseball Dictionary recorded “Linda Ronstadt” as synonymous to a fastball, a pitch which “blew by you.”
Make sure to listen to Linda Ronstadt’s version of “Blue Bayou” in the video below.
Linda Ronstadt, Roy Orbison