Glenn Frey Collaborator Jackson Browne Writes Music With a Message

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The golden age of rock 'n' roll seems faded by time, but once in a while, when a stirring storyteller sets his or her tale to melodic guitar, the soft glow of those shining '70s radiates through to our modern age. A true folksinger wields a power that can stop the soul in its tracks and transport one to another place, another time.

Jackson Browne is one such artist, and while the guitar has danced in and out of vogue, he's never stopped churning out heart-wrenching tunes. His is a voice that immediately captures. In 1972, at the start of his career, famed music mogul David Geffen started a new record label just to sign him. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and given an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Occidental College in the same year. Outside of his own illustrious career, he's written songs for everyone from the Nico to Gregg Allman, most famously penning the beloved Eagles hit “Take It Easy.”

Yet it's Browne's own body of work as a solo artist, joined by his trusty band of brothers, that most people hold forever warm in their hearts. His third album, 1974's Late for the Sky, was heralded as one of Rolling Stone's top-100 albums of the year. Two decades later, it was recognized by the magazine again as part of its "200 Greatest Albums of All Time."

His biggest commercial success came in 1977, with the release of the LP Running on Empty, a heartfelt homage to life on the road, as hopeful and inspired as it is heartbreaking. The words of a wearied man lay out the trials and tribulations of life in a rock band against some of the most beautiful chord progressions set to wax. It was recorded entirely in a live setting as Browne and his band toured the North American countryside, standing as a testament to the clarity and craftsmanship the singer/songwriter brings to every performance he delivers.

After more than four decades, Browne continues to release earnest and touching material reminiscent of the best days of rock. His latest record, 2014's Standing in the Breach, stands strong among his most classic work. It's the same stripped-down sound and earnest messages, taking on issues personal and political — everything from climate change (“Leaving Winslow”), wealth inequality (Standing in the Breach”), and the need for gun law reform (“The Long Way Around”).

"America is not really a democracy at the moment, and things that don't serve big business are thrown under the bus," Browne told Telegraph UK when the album came out. "It's not surprising that political issues find their way into songs. I think that is true of every singer and every band, because everyone has got something that they feel that strongly about… There is a limited audience for that compared to more universal or general subjects such as love. And I try to write about everything that goes on in life."

That the issues he sang about two years ago continue to relate today is no surprise. Browne made a career writing the words that flit through millions of Americans' minds, and it's that continuous grip on the pulse of a nation that keeps him relevant and noteworthy through decades. A song with a message will stand the test of time, and a songwriter with an independent mind and a strong heart is a resource the world will always need.

Jackson Browne
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 20 at Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $49.50 to $84.50 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.

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