An American rock music singer, songwriter, pianist and guitarist whose thoughtful lyrics established him as one of standouts in Southern California’s confessional singer-songwriter development of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Jackie Browne had built a loyal following with his first three albums before breaking into the mainstream success with 1976’s The Pretender, which became a Top Ten hit and reached platinum status. He gained further fame with the following records such as the # 3 hit Running on Empty (1977), featuring the hit singles “Running On Empty” and “Stay/The Load-Out,” the chart-topper Hold Out (1980) and Lawyers in Love (1983), spawning such well-known songs as “Lawyers in Love,” “Tender Is the Night” and “For a Rocker,” as well as with his biggest hit single, “Somebody’s Baby” (1982), from Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack.
Following a string of political protest albums, including Lives in the Balance (1986) and World in Motion (1989), that caused his audience to steadily shrink, Browne made his return to introspective songwriting with I’m Alive (1993), which was considered as his modest comeback. His latest album, Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1 (2005), consists of 11 tracks from his previous releases and a new track, titled “The Birds of St. Marks.” Browne received a star on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
On the height of his prominence, Browne, who was frequently referred to as “a thinking man’s rock star,” started to branch out to social and political subjects, most particularly protesting the use of nuclear energy. With several musician-friends, in late 1970s, he founded an anti-nuclear organization called Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE). He participated in many concerts to support the organization, in addition to several other benefits concerts for issues he believed in, including Farm Aid, Amnesty International and the Christic Institute. In 2000, Browne performed in several super rallies for presidential candidate Ralph Nader by singing “I Am A Patriot” and other songs. He took part in the Vote for Change tour in October 2004, which was organized to mobilize people to vote for John Kerry in the presidential election. In late 2006, he appeared with J. D. Souther and Michael Stanley at a charity performance in Ohio in order to support Democratic candidates.
Browne has married and divorced twice. He is the father of Ethan Zane Browne (born 1973; mother Phyllis Majors) and Ryan Daniel Browne (born 1982; mother Lynne Sweeney). He had a highly-published romance with actress Daryl Hannah during the 1980s.
Childhood and Family:
Clyde Jackson Browne, whose nickname is Tarbaby, was born on October 9, 1948, in Heidelberg, Germany, when his American serviceman father was stationed there. His mother, Beatrice Amanda Dahl, was a Minnesota native of Norwegian descent. His family relocated to the Highland Park district of Los Angeles, California, when Jackson was three. By the time he was a teenager, he had developed a love in folk music.
In December 1975, Jackson tied the knot with Phyllis Majors, with whom he had a son, Ethan Zane Browne, on November 2, 1973. His wife committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills and died on March 25, 1976. He remarried five years later, to Lynne Sweeney in January 1981, and welcomed a baby boy, Ryan Daniel Browne, on January 28, 1982. However, his Australian-model wife divorced him the next year, after she discovered Jackson started a public romance with screen beauty Daryl Hannah.
Running On Empty
German-born, Los Angeles-raised Jackie Browne started playing guitar and writing songs, which he performed at local folk venues. He joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in early 1966, and during his short tenure with the band, the group recorded several of his songs on its first two releases. Noted for his song writings, Browne landed a publishing deal with Nina Music in the following year, and wrote materials for numerous artist such as Steve Noonan, The Eagles, Joan Baez, Linda Ronstadt, Tom Rush, the Byrds, to name a few. From 1967 to 1968, he lived in Greenwich Village, New York, in which he played in Tim Buckley’s back-up band and on Nico’s Chelsea Girl album. Upon returning to Los Angeles, he formed a folk group with Jack Wilce and Ned Doheney, but the effort was ended in failure. His hard work eventually paid off when he signed a record contract with Asylum Records in 1971.
A self-titled debut album was released in the subsequent year, which reached # 53 on the US pop albums chart. The piano-driven single “Doctor My Eyes” was a Top Ten hit, while “Take It Easy,” a song he co-penned with The Eagles’ Glenn Frey, became the group’s breakthrough hit. The album also had such singer/songwriter standards as “Rock Me On The Water,” “Song For Adam” and “Jamaica Say You Will,” which helped launched his status as a versatile and unique writer with a deep thoughts, at times muted, but constantly romantic style. Despite Jackie Browne’s hit single, the album failed to establish him as a pop star. A high quality follow-up, For Everyman, followed in 1973, but was regarded as a commercial flop. The album marked his first of repeated partnerships with instrumentalist David Lindley.
1974 saw the release of Late for the Sky, which drastically spread out his cult following. The gold album reached # 14 on the US Pop Charts and spawned the tear-jerking title song, which was also featured in the Martin Scorsese movie Taxi Driver, the apocalyptic “Before the Deluge” and the melancholic “For a Dancer.” However, Browne did not experience a commercial breakthrough record until The Pretender was released. Released in the fall of 1976, after the tragic death of his wife, the album, which is possibly his darkest, raced up the charts, peaking at # 5, and went platinum in the spring of 1977. Aside from the title track, which becomes Browne’s magnum work, it also consisted of the Mariachi-inspired peppiness of “Linda Paloma,” the country-driven “Your Bright Baby Blues” as well as the near-hopeless sorrow and surrender of “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate.”
In the summer of 1977, Browne had a widespread tour, and recorded his next album, while he was the road. Running on Empty, released in 1977, was even a huger victory than its precursor when it burned up the charts, landing at # 3, and produced the successful singles “Running On Empty” (#11 on the US Hot 100) and “Stay/The Load-Out” (#20 on the US Hot 100). He furthered his popularity with the commercially successful Hold Out (1980), his only # 1 record on the U.S. pop albums chart, and the single “Somebody’s Baby” (1982) from the soundtrack of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which became Browne’s biggest hit, reaching # 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
His next effort, Lawyers in Love (1983), indicated a discernable switch from the personal to the political in his lyrics. Thanks to the hits “Lawyers in Love,” “Tender Is the Night” and “For a Rocker,” the album was also considered a success. He furthered showcased his social consciousness on the 1986 Lives in the Balance, a criticism of Reaganism and U.S. policy in Central America. The record was well-received by Browne’s fans, though not by mainstream listeners. The title track was used at several points in the award-winning PBS documentary The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis (1987), by columnist Bill Moyers. Lives in the Balance finally earned gold certification.
Browne went on to pen mostly political songs on his 1989 album, World in Motion. The album, however, became Browne’s first record to not go gold. He departed his recording studio for several years and was frequently spotted performing at endorse concerts for a variety of social issues. During that period, he also suffered a hurting open breakup with his actress-girlfriend, Daryl Hannah. Browne made his return in 1993 with the release of I’m Alive, which garnered him the best reviews since the late 1970s. The record went gold without spawning any major hits. This was followed by Looking East in 1996, featuring a duet single with Jann Arden, “Unloved,” and The Naked Ride Home in 2002.
Browne’s most recent album, Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1, was released in 2005 on Inside Recordings. It comprises of live recordings of eleven previously released tracks and a new song, “The Birds of St. Marks.”