Jackson Browne, 50 Years On

Jackson Browne at Outlaw Field, Boise, Idaho September 21, 2022
(All photos by Mrs. WC)

Jackson Browne wrote “These Days,” a song of aching loss and regret, in 1964, when he was just sixteen years old. There are highly successful songwriters who, in their 80s, still haven’t written anything as good as Browne’s first work as a teenager. “These Days” has been recorded by everyone from Nico to Gregg Allman to Miley Cyrus. And that was just the beginning.

After short stints with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Eagles, and some touring with Nico and others, Jackson Browne, in 1972, with his self-titled album, launched a solo career and has never looked back.

WC saw Jackson Browne for the first time in the theater at the University of Oregon in 1972, the opening act for Linda Rondstadt’s first solo tour. Browne, who looked to be about 15 years old, was touring in support of his new album and gave us, as WC recalls 50 years later, a half dozen songs from that album, and closed with “These Days” (a song that didn’t find a place on one of his albums until a few years later). Browne then played guitar and piano backing Ronstadt. A very nice show.

WC has seen Browne a few times since, most recently as a special guest touring with James Taylor.

Now, fifty years (!) later, WC saw Browne again. He was at the Idaho Botanical Garden’s Outlaw Field on September 21 with his touring band, and gave us a fine show, with all of those wonderful old hits and an excellent sampling of his newer work. With a single exception – Little Stevie Van Zandt’s “I Am a Patriot” – all of the other 23 songs in his 2.5 hour show were tunes Browne wrote or co-wrote over the course of his long career. As someone who owns each and all of Browne’s 13 albums and both sets of compilations, you can imagine WC was a pretty happy guy.

If there is a single artist who has seemed to capture WC’s personal emotional turmoil and political angst as a Boomer, it’s Jackson Browne. He has been a powerful political, protest singer, without being as didactic as Phil Ochs or Tom Paxton. He has written wrenchingly emotional songs of loss and regret, without getting soppy. And he has written songs that perfectly captured the turmoil of moving from idealistic kids to adults struggling with mortgages, demands and expectations, without indulging in navel-gazing. And he wrote the definitive road album, offering a glimpse of the music touring life, and his love and loathing for his craft. All with some pretty amazing music backing those great lyrics.

Decades along, there are very few elderly idealists who don’t tear up listening, really listening to the lyrics of “The Pretender.”

Browne’s set included a few audience requests, including the rarely played “Naked Ride Home.” The band did a good job playing a fairly unfamiliar song, but Browne flubbed the lyrics. Given the size of his songbook, it’s not a complete surprise, and WC admits his memory, two years younger than Browne’s, is getting a little spotty. The audience, many of its members as old as Browne, was patient and understanding.

Outlaw Field and Jackson Browne at twilight (Photo by Mrs. WC)

It was a terrific show on a beautiful evening. WC, still a bit crippled up by knee surgery, managed to mostly forget all that for a few hours and enjoy a favorite artist with something to say and still possessing the tools to say it. The band was as tight and as skilled as you could want, and the crowd at Outlaw Field, for once, focused on the show and not endless yammering.

Thanks for an excellent show, Jackson Browne. Come again soon.

4 thoughts on “Jackson Browne, 50 Years On

  1. We saw him with James Taylor in Chicago a couple of years ago. Best concert I have ever heard (and I include the Boss).


  2. It’s nice to know you’re admirer of Browne’s work.
    His first album, Jackson Browne (often mistakenly called “Saturate Before Using”) was released the year after I graduated high school. Upon hearing it, I immediately was a fan. Through the ensuing 50 years, he has never disappointed.
    I was lucky enough to see him in Albuquerque about a year ago, and in Phoenix a few years before that.
    Though he’s one of America’s finest songwriters, he has still managed to stay a real, and fairly humble person.

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