Exploring Linda Ronstandt’s extensive discography reveals a wide breadth of musical styles, genres, and influences. While she is exceptionally well known for her Rock and Roll, securing a spot in the Rock and Roll hall of fame in 2014, I wish to highlight the work in her album Canciones de Mi Padre which demonstrates her ability to crossover to a music rooted in a language she did not dominate to the same level as English. As the album’s title suggests, the collection of songs she interprets are songs she attributes to her father’s connection with Mexican culture as well as own her identity as a multicultural artist.
Her interpretations in this album are authentic to the vocal styles set by other ranchera idols like Lola Beltran, Lucha Villa, and Amalia Mendoza, to name a few. However, Ronstandt’s recordings also offer a fresh and unique interpretation for mariachi music aficionados to appreciate. Her crossover to mariachi music remains an impressive display of skill and talent which undoubtedly perpetuates the vivacity of the music that I hold most dear.
Two directors that have successfully crossed over to different genres are Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen. Spielberg has been hugely successful with his sci-fi and adventure films (E.T., Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ), thrillers (Jaws), dramas (Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, The Color Purple), kid's movies (Hook, The BFG) and now a musical (West Side Story).
Woody Allen is known for his comedies (Annie Hall, Take the Money and Run, Sleeper) but his serious movies are often less successful. Some exceptions are Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters, Blue Jasmine and Manhattan. I also really liked Match Point and Cassandra's Dream. He even made a musical comedy, Everyone Says I Love You, which was not a commercial success, but in my opinion (and most of the critics) is a very underrated favorite.
Many contemporary popular, rock and classical artists have been blurring the line between genres. Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond is a rock artist who has written an opera. Rufus Wainwright is another artist who has written an opera, and the great folk musician Rhiannon Giddens recently premiered her opera, Omar, at the Spoleto Festival and Los Angeles Opera. Meanwhile, Metallica performs with the San Francisco Symphony.
Linda Ronstadt is a shining example of a rock star who was extremely successful in crossing over into the popular genre with her albums of standards with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. Then, going against all the professional naysayers, she came out with 2 albums of Mexican traditional mariachi music. Canciones de Mi Padre is the biggest-selling non-English language album in American record history. She also ventured into country music with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris with her trio albums. And let's not forget her foray into operetta with Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance.
George Gershwin wrote popular music for Broadway shows and Hollywood films that became standards in the great American songbook. These songs are still popular today: Someone to Watch Over Me, I Got Rhythm, They Can't Take That Away From Me, Our Love is here to Stay. But he also wrote concertos and orchestral music which have remained classics in the repertoire. His classical compositions, like Rhapsody in Blue, are known for their jazz influences, and in his opera Porgy and Bess, he melded classical, jazz, blues and spirituals. It contains Summertime, one of the most popular songs ever, covered by numerous artists, from jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald, to opera singer Angel Blue to The Doors. And it inspired an important jazz album, the Miles Davis Porgy and Bess.
Leonard Bernstein might be the most well-known classical musician to cross over into the popular genre. His Broadway scores (Candide, West Side Story, On the Town) are iconic, while his classical output (Chichester Psalms, Symphonies 1-3, etc) is less well known. He also wrote the score for On the Waterfront, all while serving as conductor of the NY Philharmonic.
2022 Emmy nominee Sheryl Lee Ralph (for the sitcom Abbott Elementary) has made a career out of being a crossover artist. She received a Tony nomination for originating the Deena Jones (based on Diana Ross) character in the musical, Dreamgirls. She covered the Bob Dylan song "The Mighty Quinn" (Dylan version on Freegal) for the comedy murder mystery The Mighty Quinn which she also costarred in with Denzel Washington. She worked with acclaimed director Charles Burnett on the heavily dramatic To Sleep With Anger and netted herself an Independent Spirit Award.
When she was 16 Taylor Swift made her album debut with her self titled country album. She won a Grammy and the Country Music Award for her Fearless album. While there have always been elements of pop in her country work, Swift completely abandoned country for a big pop sound in her album of the year winner, 1989. She then moved in to explore a more alternative rock sound in her third album of the year winning Folklore.
Another artist who has surprised and delighted fans by crossing over genres is Lady Gaga. She shook up the dance floor with her dance/pop synthesis of world weary cynicism in The Fame. She pushed even more so musically in The Fame Monster and Born This Way. She then shocked fans and critics alike when she moved to doing classic songbook standards in jazzy duets with Tony Bennett in Cheek to Cheek and Love for Sale. She also showed her versatility in crossing over to dramatic acting scoring a Golden Globe for the funny/scary American Horror Story: Hotel and an Oscar nomination for the dramatic and romantic A Star is Born.
Movies & Music - Question of the Week
The chart-topping hit "Old Town Road", which Lil Nas X describes as the crossover subgenre country trap, samples the instrumental piece "34 Ghosts IV" by this music act.
Nine Inch Nails0
Rage Against the Machine0
Billy Ray Cyrus0
Last Week's Trivia Answer: Bethel, NY