The Last of Us has already proven that music is essential to this saga about survival, love, and loss in the final days of the world. But not even the most diehard fan of this franchise was prepared for Episode 3’s heart-wrenching use of Linda Ronstadt’s “Long, Long Time.”
Ronstadt’s 1970s hit isn’t just a major emotional beat; it’s also where Episode 3 gets its name. After Bill (Nick Offerman) begrudgingly offers Frank (Murray Bartlett) a meal, Frank spies Bill’s piano. Excited, he clumsily tries to play the ballad before Bill takes over. Through Offerman’s uncertain warbling, we see Bill and Frank’s relationship transform from two strangers into something far more intimate.
What Does Linda Ronstadt’s Song Mean in The Last of Us Episode 3?
According to IndieWire, series co-creator Craig Mazin knew that he wanted Bill and Frank’s romance to hinge around a musical moment. But he didn’t know exactly what song he wanted.
“I remember saying to Neil [Druckmann], ‘I’m not sure what the song is, I just know that it has to be this incredibly sad song about yearning for love, and never getting love, and just making your peace with the fact that you will always be alone. But it can’t be on the nose. And it can’t be a song that we all know,’” Mazin said.
Mazin recruited his friend Seth Rudetsky, host of Seth’s Big Fat Broadway and Seth Speaks on Sirius XM’s On Broadway, to figure out what song could work for the scene. In less than a minute, Rudetsky sent him “Long, Long Time.” Part of Ronstadt’s second solo album Silk Purse, the song is about how difficult yet rewarding love is. Ronstadt later stated that she wasn’t pleased with the album, even though “Long, Long Time” marked her first Grammy nomination.
Who Is Linda Ronstadt?
We did this with Kate Bush and Stranger Things; we can do it again now. Ronstadt was dubbed the Queen of Rock and the Queen of Country Rock in the 1990s. Over her career, the now-retired singer dabbled in several genres, including rock, country, light opera, early-20th-century jazz, and Latin. She won 11 Grammys, three American Music Awards, as well as an Emmy for her work in PBS’s Great Performances. Basically, she’s one of the most successful and lauded singers you may have missed.
If you’re thinking that Ronstadt would be the perfect candidate for an introspective documentary, you’re covered. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice was directed by the Oscar-winning Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and features interviews with several of Ronstadt’s friends and fellow artists. Narrated by Ronstadt, who only appears briefly in the documentary, it cycles through her years of success, surprising creative swings, and eventual retirement in 2011, which happened in part due to her progressive supranuclear palsy diagnosis. Benjamin H. Smith described the film as “a moving portrait of an artist whose life has been brought to heel against an unbeatable foe.” After you re-watch The Last of Us Episode 3, you can catch it on HBO Max.
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