Eco-Amplifier: Jackson Browne
Though he hasn’t charted since the 1980s, Jackson Browne continues to serve as a shining example of what it means to be an activist musician.
Setting the Bar High
When thinking about the landscape of modern rock, folk, and alternative music, it’s crucial to acknowledge these genres’ forerunners. While many artists have successful runs of multiple years, these plethoras of artists fail to have the legacy they intended and the relevancy they had hoped for.
It’s unfortunate, but the truth is that only a handful of artists made and continue to make genuinely compelling music.
Of those artists, it’s an even smaller number that can say they have helped shape a genre into what it is today. Jackson Browne is one of those rare artists and the last of a dying breed whose lyrics stand not only as the basis for classic songs relevant today but as poetry in their own right.
A Prodigy Since Young
Starting when he was only 16, Jackson Browne has had a career spanning more than half a century.
It was in 1966 that he began his musical career as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, leaving after a few months. During his time with them, he recorded several songs that would end up being recorded by many other artists, such as the Eagles, Tom Rush, and the Byrds.
During this period, he wrote songs behind the scenes and worked with other contemporary artists, such as Tim Buckley and Nico of the Velvet Underground.
It was in 1971 that he struck out on his own, though, recording and releasing several of what would become his classic material; notable examples include Doctor My Eyes, Jamaica Say You Will, and Song For Adam.
In 1976 he released The Pretender, and the following year, Jackson Browne released Running On Empty, which would become his most commercially successful album.
One of the throughlines observed in Browne’s work is the political messages he implies and proclaims. He doesn’t shy away from saying what he truly thinks and feels about the world and its state, and he believes art can inspire those to take action to change the way things are.
In a 2021 interview with the Guardian, he said this on the listeners perceiving politics in art. “They can feel like they’re being lectured to simply because they don’t know much about the subject,” he said. “And they get the feeling they should know more.”
His activism stretches out from simple words, as he has maintained a dedication to fighting for what he believes in. He was there for protests after the Three Mile Island accident, among other anti-nuclear demonstrations, and founded Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE).
A wind turbine entirely powers his residence and is part of the “Plastic Free Backstage” movement.
Words and Action
While words are essential to inspire and motivate people to take initiative in their individual lives, those words need to be based on a foundation of action.
While some might perceive Jackson Browne and other artists as preachy, what is, without a doubt, accurate is that his music and words are rooted in reality. He sets an example for proper environmental activism and doesn’t shy away from doing and saying what he knows is true.
We can all be inspired by that kind of courage, and though he is in his 70s now, he still continues to fight for what he believes in.