Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne still making wake-up calls
The Dallas Morning News (MCT) - Five years ago, Jackson Browne appeared as a guest star in an episode of "The Simpsons." In an effort to seek his wife's forgiveness, Homer throws a party for Marge and books Browne as the entertainment.
The scene underscores an all-too-familiar feeling for any veteran artist. It wouldn't be a Jackson Browne concert if he didn't hear shouts coming from the audience, as in: "'The Pretender!' 'Running on Empty!' 'Doctor My Eyes!'"
Now 60, Browne recorded his first album in 1972 and is touring to promote his 17th, "Time the Conqueror." It's his first studio recording in six years and his first studio album for the label he founded, Inside Recordings.
"They've got me pretty busy, but it's fun. I'm having a great time," he says by telephone from Los Angeles, where he had flown from the Midwest and would leave the next day to resume his tour in North Carolina.
On the cover of "Time the Conqueror," Browne sports a beard flecked with gray. He sees the record as acceptance of the fact that "life is temporary. The acceptance of that brings a lot of gifts. You don't have forever, so you have to come to the point."
What ensues is a highly energetic album with songs shaped by a band whose oldest members began playing with Browne 15 years ago. Its newest performers are a pair of background vocalists, Chavonne Morris and Alethea Mills, women in their early 20s who are graduates of an inner-city school in Los Angeles that brims with talent.
The album is a clever interweaving of the personal and the political, including "The Drums of War," "Where Were You," which probes President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, and "Going Down to Cuba," whose subtlety is driven home largely through humor.
Browne recently sued John McCain's presidential campaign for copyright infringement for using his 1977 hit, "Running on Empty," in an attack ad on Barack Obama, whose most avid supporters include Browne. He says he recently heard Obama speak at a rally in St. Louis attended by more than 100,000 people.
Long known for his activism, Browne is mentioned in a new song by Randy Newman, titled "A Piece of the Pie": "Jesus Christ, it stinks here high and low/The rich are getting richer, I should know/While we're going up, you're going down/No one gives a (expletive) but Jackson Browne."
Browne loved it. "It's a very funny thing to say," he says, noting that Newman sent it to him before he recorded it. "It was like getting a shout-out from your hero." Browne chuckles about the reviewer who once wrote of his career: "Has there ever been an album where somebody doesn't die?"
His melding of the personal and the political is nothing new. He wrote one of his signature songs, the moving ballad "These Days," when he was only 16. It's one of many that chronicle his life's journey, including his political activism. As he once told an interviewer: "What's more personal than your political beliefs?"
For the boomer generation, "Time the Conqueror" serves as a wake-up call. "You try not to waste energy or time," he says of being 60. "It's good to have goals."
In his case, he's fueled by a band made up of younger performers, whom he praises for "their excellence, their spontaneity, their ability to play emotionally."
He loves the verse in the title song that "says it's time to decide what kind of world you believe in, and, obviously, to be in the second half of your life, you still have a choice that your world is just beginning _ or is coming to an end. You have to accept the idea that there's a time frame in which you can do something."
© 2008, The Dallas Morning News.
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