Musings on Jackson Brown’s The Pretender

Folks, The Pretender is just around the corner, and so Jackson Browne is on the brain. And when Jackson Browne is on the brain, he’s also in the heart. For he’s a songwriter who exemplifies the use of both. Oh yes, this show on June 13th is going to be a goodie.

When Jackson Browne was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, Bruce Springsteen said that to him, “Jackson was always the tempered voice of Abel. Toiling in the vineyards, here to bear the earthly burdens, confronting the impossibility of love, here to do his father’s work.” The voice of Abel… Whew. Hard not to feel that one in the marrow of your bones. This is a description of a soul so deep, he can lend a voice to the sufferer, to the downtrodden and broken hearted. Here’s a spirit who doesn’t shy away from what’s hard in a life.

This depth isn’t necessarily obvious in his most famous work, like “Take it Easy,” “Doctor My Eyes,” or even the title track for our record “The Pretender.” Though those might be his most famous songs, they showcase his breezy California side, the long-haired, barefoot, everything is beautiful Jackson Browne. Not to take away from the brilliance of that side, but it is his darker catalog that showcases the richness of Jackson Browne. “These Days” or “For a Dancer,” well almost anything on the album Late for the Sky, really show where Jackson’s heart truly is. “Jackson was one of the first songwriters I met who demonstrated the value of thinking hard about what you were saying, your subject,” Springsteen also said at the induction ceremony. And you can see what he means in Jackson’s darker songs.

Jackson’s songs have been done by so many standouts. The Eagles, The Byrds, Joan Baez, Linda Ronstadt, Nico, Tom Rush, to name a few. There’s a reason for this, and it’s not just that the guy writes a great song. It’s that those songs are great because they come from a place that we all at times know and feel. Jackson Browne has long been able to dip his pail into some well of universal emotion. And we’re all the luckier because he’s pulled it to the surface, let us sip from it, let us see ourselves in its waters.

-David Berkeley, ATL Collective Co-Founder