Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 424
["The Road And The Sky"] written by Jackson Browne over four years ago, was the catalyst for an idea which evolved into Running On Empty, a live album and conceptual statement about the physical and psychic consequences of being on tour. It is an unusual and powerful work. All the songs are new, all of them except one are about life on the road, and they were recorded in all the places where life on the road is lived—in motel rooms, on buses, in backstage dressing rooms, as well as on stage itself. The seamless fashion in which the motel songs and the stage songs are fused together is part of the magic.
The theme has been continued in each cycle of Jackson's development…. But it was his collection of songs on The Pretender which established his position as both a major poet and musician.
Jackson has captured in his songs the illusory nature of the world, echoing the tradition of a long line of poets. Love and death, birth and rebirth; symbols of futility are a strong part of his imagery…. Browne's work offers the artistic re-creation of the individual's struggle in our times, a vision of life within chaos. Its virtue lies in the perceptiveness of what it offers.
For Jackson has used his songs as outlets for the pressures and emotional conflicts that rage about inside him. In these songs he often provides the raw material, how we interpret them will depend on our presuppositions. He creates from an instinctive, intuitive source. He has a unique way in which he describes relationships and he is able to fuse conscious and unconscious, emotion and the senses. Like other great poets, Browne transcends his period and confronts us with perennial facts of human nature. (p. 69)
Jackson's songwriting matured rapidly. His earliest songs were concerned with a love of language, a poetic romanticism, but by the age of eighteen he was writing in more universal terms; the song "Dancing Sam" is a good example. (p. 75)
Browne's music can be seen as an evolving work, a perpetual Bildungsroman, manifesting the always changing yet ever-the-same awareness and celebration of the recovery of the divinity of man. These are songs of transformations. "There is no salvation," Henry Miller wrote, "only infinite realms of experience providing more and more tests, demanding more and more faith." (p. 81)
Anthony Fawcett, "Jackson Browne—The Road and the Sky," in his California Rock, California Sound: The Music of Los Angeles and Southern California (copyright © 1978 APT Publishing AG), Reed Books, 1978, pp. 66-81.
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