A Life in Song

Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne

You love Jackson Browne. I guarantee it. Forget about his most recognizable soft-rock radio staples (though, like any self-respecting listener, I’d always prefer Browne’s “Take It Easy” over that “More Than Words” song).

Forget even Browne’s tries at activism. Lives in the Balance, his 1986 album condemning U.S. policy in South America, is a strikingly admirable use of his talent, but this consciousness of the greater good is only a symptom of an even more powerful quality.

Browne has one thing few artists do: humility. Sure, he’s famous, at least among the multitudinous ’70s folk fanatics still fawning over his classic period. But in many ways he isn’t half as famous as he should be.

For one, Browne did some of his best songwriting for other artists. Does anyone ever talk about the fact that neither Nico nor Gregg Allman wrote “These Days”? That even “Take It Easy” is more commonly associated with The Eagles than with its primary author?

But Jackson Browne doesn’t care. So unlike the shamelessly self-promotional artists of the SoundCloud generation, Browne chose to make music his livelihood simply because he loves it.

“My attraction to playing guitar in the first place was that it was something I could do by myself,” Browne tells EW. “And now I care more that it’s something I can do with other people. I think that both things are true.”

Again and again, Browne expresses gratitude for the artists he’s been able to play alongside lately — flamenco greats Raimundo Amador and RaÚl RodrÍguez among them, interestingly — and how happy it makes him when others add new perspectives to his songs.

And though Browne, a representative of the relatively purist genre that is Americana, admits that electronica “tends to repeat itself too much,” he even has sweet things to say about the electronic music that his son Ethan, an aspiring DJ, makes.

“I see my life in songs I’ve written,” Browne says. “Well, this is music he wrote. It’s very profound.”

Browne’s graceful simplicity is underlined in the way he presents himself during performances — the bulk of it is him and a guitar, eyes closed, toe tapping.

“What kind of legacy would you like to leave behind, as an artist, as a person?” I ask.

“The songs,” he says. “It’s all in the songs.”

Jackson Browne plays 7:30 pm Wednesday, Aug. 5, at the Cuthbert Amphitheatre; $42-$62.

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