Rhythm & Views

Jackson Browne

When did the name Jackson Browne become synonymous with the word "pussy"? Sure, the guy is literate, laid-back and a little aloof. But how does this equate with a distinct lack of masculinity? Was it Elvis Costello who characterized Browne's music as belonging to the "fuck me, I'm so sensitive" school of songwriting? If so, Mr. Declan McManus should take notes from the West Coast soft rocker's discography before slithering back into his Diana Krall-infected cesspool.

At 20, Browne had already written songs for Linda Ronstadt and the Byrds, performed in Tim Buckley's backing band and survived a relationship with Nico. At 24, he released his debut album on David Geffen's Asylum Records. At an age when most male songwriters scream about, well, pussy, Browne communicated grief, longing and regret, often within the same verse.

After a crazy, out-of-control hit like "Somebody's Baby" for the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack, he fired three point-blank, full-length albums into the face of '80s Reaganism (Lawyers in Love, Lives in the Balance, World in Motion), thereby chasing off most of his yuppified audience.

In the '90s, Browne returned to more introspective subject matter. "Sky Blue and Black" strips away old animosities between lovers, in which the speaker is unafraid to reveal his pride and call them into question.

Deep into the second disc, there are some speed bumps that suggest Browne should've spent less time beating Daryl Hannah and more time on his songcraft. But 2002's "The Night Inside Me," which closes this best-of collection, brings Browne full circle.

I guess I'm just a member of the "fuck me, I'm so sensitive" school of music writing.

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