Browned off with Bush

Hot on the heels of his Vote for Change gigs, Jackson Browne embarks on a UK tour
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The Independent Culture

"The Beach Boys gave us California as paradise, and Jackson Browne gave us paradise lost." So said Bruce Springsteen when inducting Browne into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame last March. "In Seventies, post-Vietnam America," the Boss added, "there was no album that captured the fall from Eden better than Jackson's masterpiece, Late for the Sky. It's a beautiful body of work; essential in making sense of [those] times."

"The Beach Boys gave us California as paradise, and Jackson Browne gave us paradise lost." So said Bruce Springsteen when inducting Browne into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame last March. "In Seventies, post-Vietnam America," the Boss added, "there was no album that captured the fall from Eden better than Jackson's masterpiece, Late for the Sky. It's a beautiful body of work; essential in making sense of [those] times."

"That was typically Bruce," says Browne, in York Opera House on the opening night of his UK tour. "Very flattering in his analysis of my work." Ask him about Springsteen's quip that his wife, Patti Scialfa, still thinks of Browne as "a bona-fide rock'n'roll sex star", and he draws the curtain of discretion: "Again, very flattering of him to include Patti's tribute, but hey, we're all into our fifties now."

To be precise, Browne has just turned 56. Politicised as ever, he spent his birthday travelling to Washington, DC, to play on the Vote for Change tour. He says it was wonderful to hear singers such as Springsteen, Michael Stipe and Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam, trade verses on "(What's so Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding", but admits that it's difficult to gauge how effective Vote for Change has been. "What is clear," he says, "is that efforts to get youth to register to vote are working, thanks to artists who don't usually declare their politics saying, 'This is an emergency; this is a pivotal time in history.'

"Kerry isn't sufficiently against the war, in my opinion, but he has the intelligence to make informed decisions, whereas Bush is like a wind-up doll that speaks in simplistic, black-and-white terms. They ask him, 'Have you made mistakes?', and he says, 'I probably have, but I can't think what they might be.' It hardly instils confidence."

Born in Germany but raised in Los Angeles, Browne earned his stripes playing guitar with Tim Buckley and Nico. Fine compositions such as 1986's "In the Shape of a Heart" and 2002's "Naked Ride Home" distinguish Browne as a major artist in his own right, but he is perhaps best known for co-writing "Take It Easy", a huge hit for The Eagles.

Asked about his literate song- writing, Browne cites an early love of Shakespeare, Maupassant and Twain as a key factor in his artistic development. "And my father was very playful with language," he adds. "If you asked him a question, he'd give you an answer that meant at least two different things, and that was great training for a songwriter who sets up metaphors for people to decipher."

One song Browne may perform in upcoming shows is "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me", written by his late friend Warren Zevon, who died of lung cancer in 2003. "It encapsulates Warren's dry, eye-rolling sense of humour," Browne says. "He wasn't self-pitying at all."

Jackson Browne plays Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, on Saturday; Palladium, London W1, 1 & 22 Nov; Guildhall, Portsmouth, 2 Nov; Colston Hall, Bristol, 17 Nov

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