Linda Ronstadt said in an interview in 1978, “It’s so easy to have a hit. All you have to do is recycle it.”
“Blue Bayou” was a hit in 1961 when Roy Orbison first released it. Written by Orbison and his writing partner at the time, Joe Melson, the song reached #29 on the charts. Orbison and Melson wrote other classic Orbison tunes, including “Crying” and “Only the Lonely.”
Ronstadt’s 1977 version of “Blue Bayou” reached #3. It was at its peak when another Ronstadt recycled hit — Buddy Holly’s “It’s So Easy” — charted as well, ultimately reaching #5. Ronstadt became the first act since the Beatles to log two Top 5 singles at the same time.
Ironically, Ronstadt grew to resent the songs that made her famous, to the point where she still can’t bear to listen to her Greatest Hits collection.
She went on to collaborate with Nelson Riddle in the 1980s on three successful albums of traditional pop standards. She retired from singing in 2009, feeling her voice had deteriorated too much to perform any longer.
“Blue Bayou” has enduring popularity, so Ronstadt chose well. Orbison continued to perform it well into his later career, and still sounds great on his 1988 version from his Black & White Night performance. There is also a rare 1960s Italian version unearthed by Rolling Stone in 2019 that has a completely different rhythm.
Saving nickles, saving dimes
Working ’til the sun don’t shine
Looking forward to happier times
On Blue Bayou