Jackson Browne: The Rolling Stone Interview

Jackson Browne on love, marriage and the girl in his songs

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Below is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in RS 323 from August 7, 1980. This issue and the rest of the Rolling Stone archives are available via Rolling Stone Plus, Rolling Stone's premium subscription plan. If you are already a subscriber, you can click here to see the full story M. Not a member? Click here to learn more about All Access .

Because Jackson Browne and his music seem to occupy a special place among "Rolling Stone" readers, a brief introductory note should suffice. Why Browne is special is probably a personal thing, but I've always suspected that those of us who admire his admittedly autobiographical art usually find in it more about our own lives — not Jackson's — than we'd care to convey. In the Sixties, Bob Dylan had an uncanny ability to define a decade and its denizens. Throughout the Seventies and into the Eighties — for me, at least — Jackson Browne has taken over this job and done it better than anyone else.

With the release of 'Hold Out,' his sixth album in eight years, Browne has just begun the most extensive tour of his career. Right before he hit the road, Jackson managed a few free hours to tape this interview. We talked twice — each time at the ungodly hour of nine in the morning — before he had to rush off to rehearsals, photo sessions and so forth. Since we'd done stories together in the past (for 'The Pretender' and 'Running on Empty'), both of us knew what to expect. I knew he'd do his damnedest to avoid explaining what his new songs meant, and he knew I'd attempt to drag it out of him. The give-and-take was pretty funny at times.

When I arrived fifteen minutes early for our last taping and knocked on the door of Browne's modest Hollywood home, the house was silent. I leaned on the doorbell for what seemed like forever. Finally, Ethan, Jackson's six-year-old son, opened the gate and let me in. "Who are you?" he asked. I told him who I was and that I had an important appointment with his father. "He's still asleep," Ethan said. "But you can come in and help me find the can opener. I've got to feed the cat." We fed the cat. Ethan asked: "Do you want to see me stand on my head?" Sure, why not, I thought, praying that Jackson would wake up. I could feel my interview going down the drain.

"Ethan," I asked, getting the tape recorder ready in the living room, "do you think you could go and see if your daddy's up yet?"

"I don't think that's a very good idea," he answered after a long pause.

It took some convincing, but eventually Ethan gave it a try. When he came back, he said: "I told him but I don't think he heard me. He just sort of mumbled and rolled over and went to sleep again."

For the next few minutes, the living room seemed awfully empty. Then I heard a radio playing somewhere in the basement. Exploring, I found a friend of Browne's who was awake. After I explained my predicament, she fetched Jackson immediately. Sleep's difficult to come by when you work as hard as he does, I guess. We got a good laugh out of it.

As you'll see, the interview starts off with a real surprise.

A mutual friend of ours tells me that you've been spending a lot of time in Santa Barbara lately; she says you've bought a place up there.

Actually, I've had this land for about three or four years. But it's just acreage right now. I'm about to build a barn and stables.

She says there are quite a few single parents in the area and that a whole group of you get together almost every weekend.

I guess there are a lot of single parents there.

She gave me the idea that you were even thinking about moving to Santa Barbara permanently.

I was. But I'm not a single parent anymore.

You're not?

No. Lynne and I are going to get married.

Lynne who?

Sweeney. Lynne Sweeney.

When is this going to happen?

I think it's going to happen in October or early November. But let's back up a little. The answer I gave you before wasn't really appropriate. The reason I was going to move to Santa Barbara was never because I was a single parent. That's not where they send the single parents, you know.

You're getting married at the end of the current three-month tour?

Well, it's really a world tour, and we're going to be married before we leave the country. We just don't have the time to do it now. We were driving along the other day, and I said, "Gee, maybe we ought to go down to city hall right now, Lynne." But even that would have taken three hours we didn't have.

Maybe you should have gotten married instead of talking to me.

We could have gotten married this morning, Paul, but NOOOOO …!

You had to talk to "Rolling Stone."

Yeah, we had to talk to Rolling Stone.

Tell me about meeting Lynne.

Lynne and I have been together, off and on, since about 1977.I met her in Australia during the '77 tour. She came to the show. Everybody had a fantastic time that night. After the show, there was this party that the band threw. Halfway through the party, the promoter was having such a good time that he offered to flip me for the bill — and he lost. It was a great night all around.

Lynne came to the party, and I started seeing her from then on. She was from Sydney, but I met her in Brisbane. When we played Sydney, she came to visit there. And then over to Perth and back to Sydney. I think we played Sydney three different times.

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From The Archives Issue 42: September 20, 1969