Five Reasons Jackson Browne Was the Most Honest Songwriter of the 1970s
No one could squeeze more pathos from their platitudes than Jackson Browne.
Photo by Nels Israelson
When one thinks of the sensitive singer/songwriter types who thrived in the early 1970s, certain artists come to mind: James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young were the big buzz, and yet, though their songs embodied a starry-eyed sensibility, none of them could squeeze more pathos from their platitudes than Jackson Browne.
While Joni sang serenely, James waxed wistful and reflective, and Young went off on his metaphysical tangents, Browne allowed his music to pierce the soul by laying bare his personal turmoil and private tragedies. Be it the uncertainty of youth, turbulent relationships, a wife's suicide, or unsettled feelings about the politics and upheaval during the Reagan era, Browne never wavered. And here are five reasons Jackson Browne was the most honest singer/songwriter of the '70s.
5. "Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate"
Browne's wife, Phyllis, took her own life while he was in the midst of recording The Pretender, the album that became his most epic early accomplishment. The entire disc plays out like an elegy -- certainly for his spouse but also for the innocence and optimism spawned in the '60s and ambushed by the '70s. This song directly addresses the tragedy of suicide with musings on mortality, promise, and purpose.
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4. "Before the Deluge"
In a very real sense, this song was a metaphor about a coming catastrophe, a description of dread that was so compelling, it could very well have changed life forever. Some saw it as Browne's farewell to a relationship, while others imagined something even more profound: the end of youth, the end of idealism, the end of hope for a better tomorrow. It still stands as one of Browne's darkest and most despairing testimonials.
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