Jackson Browne is still going strong in his mid-60s, with his music and lyrics as meaningful today as they were in the early ‘70s, when the album “For Everyman” was released. His beard may be graying, but the songs keep coming, often in a refreshing vein that keeps long-time Jackson listeners wanting more, and newcomers wondering why they weren’t Jackson fans sooner.
Jackson has a way of composing a love song or political tune in a way few others can. He wrote most of “Take it Easy,” but needed the help of Glenn Frey of The Eagles, who came up with the line, “It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat-bed Ford slowing down to have a look at me.” With creativity and prompting such as this, Jackson was able to finish “Take it Easy,” versions of which The Eagles and Jackson sing to this day.
In 1993, Jackson’s record “I’m Alive” hit stores with such love songs as “Take This Rain,” “Sky Blue and Black” and “Two of Me, Two of You,” making a lasting impression on Jackson fans. In the tune, “I’m Alive,” southern California, Jackson, laments losing a lover of his as he is driving down a California freeway. However, he comes to the conclusion that “those dreams are dead.” And he’s still vibrant – that he must move on from this heartbreak and embrace live again.
Jackson has enjoyed much success through the years with songs such as “Doctor My Eyes,” “These Days,” “The Pretender,” “Somebody’s Baby,” and “I Thought I was a Child” to name a few early tunes that jumpstarted his career.
“I Thought I was a Child” describes a young man’s coming of age during his first serious love affair. The lyrics of the song state his predicament: “It’s such a clever innocence with which you do your sorcery. As If somehow the years just bow, and let that young girl go free. I thought I was a child, until you turned and smiled. I thought that I was free, but I’m just one more prisoner of time alone within the boundaries of my mind.”
Jackson or some young man has been hypnotized by the seemingly contradictory “clever innocence” of an attractive young woman. This tune is from the early ‘70s record “For Everyman,” but could apply to a blossoming relationship in 2014.
The lyrics to this song conclude with the young man’s plight becoming more complicated, as he becomes trapped in time, unable to escape from the all-consuming thoughts of the young woman in his head.
Jackson still calls the CD’s he releases, “records,” because he considers these albums as a record of his music and lyrics. Although Jackson is in his mid-60s, he still has the youthful appeal of the California crooner he was and always will be – kind of like a one man version, at least when he’s playing acoustically, of the eternally youthful Beach Boys from the West Coast, as well.
Although I think it would be really cool to see Jackson in concert in Calif., I’ve only caught him twice, both times in Pa.: one at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center and the other at the Tower Theater. One of the concerts was acoustic with Jackson playing piano and guitar, and the other was with his band backing him with a more rock-like quality.
I’ve also seen James Taylor in concert, who is about the same age as Jackson. He’s mellower than JB and more of a story teller. Taylor hails from the south originally and is best known for such songs as “Carolina in My Mind,” “Sweet Baby James,” “Something in the Way She Moves,” “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” and “Fire and Rain.”
Taylor can still bring it with tunes such as “Steamroller Blues,” “Traffic Jam,” “Slap Leather” and “Riding on a Railroad,” but Jackson creates more of a rockin’ style with “Running on Empty,” “Cocaine,” “The Night Inside Me,” “The Barricades of Heaven” and “You Love the Thunder,” among others.
Jackson’s music appeals to older and younger listeners alike, especially due to the fact that he has a political bent that he cultivates when he feels so inclined with such songs as “Casino Nation,” “Alive in the World,” “Information Wars” and “Far From the Arms of Hunger,” among others.
Obviously, Jackson doesn’t just churn out his after meaningless hit, as Taylor Swift might do. But heck, it works really well for Miss. Swift, so why should she change?
Inspiration for a new song may come to Jackson at almost any time, but the process of composing said song and record usually lasts for weeks or even months, as Jackson’s creative juices eventually find their way from his mind to the written form.
Nils Groten is a resident of Berks County.