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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The Jackson Browne track he called an “unabashed pop song”

Jackson Browne and pop music might not be two things naturally associated with one another. The American artist is best known for his poetic rock songs, penning the iconic Nico track ‘These Days’ and writing hits for the Eagles. But there is one song that Browne himself admits is all-out pop fodder.

Browne is a rock artist through and through. In 2004, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, later also joining the Songwriter Hall Of Fame in 2007 for his contributions to music. Even beyond the tunes, Browne seems to offer a shining example of a rockstar thanks to his proud political and social activism, putting him in the same realm as Bob Dylan as artists who regularly turn their pen to consider the world around them.

But one track stands out in Browne’s discography as different. ‘Somebody’s Baby’ never actually sat on one of his albums, but Browne wrote and recorded it as part of the soundtrack for the 1982 coming-of-age film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Playing out as the protagonist works through his frustrations, the perfect timing of the song and its catchy soundtrack to the scene made it a hit.

Writing for a soundtrack, rather than for himself, seemed to change something in Browne. The song’s co-writer Danny Kortchmar said, “It was not typical of what Jackson writes at all, that song. But because it was for this movie, he changed his general approach and came up with this fantastic song.”

The chorus lyrics and central hook of “she must be somebody’s baby” is so instantly catchy, with Kortchmar adding, “It’s a brilliant lyric. I think it’s absolutely wonderful.”

Even though he never added the song to one of his albums, ‘Somebody’s Baby’ has a clear place in Browne’s heart. According to Kortchmar, the public’s reaction to the track made Browne love it, noting, “It ended up being something that got requested a lot, and he ended up playing it live and taking it to his heart, as it were. And now he plays it all the time”.

Browne himself will admit that ‘Somebody’s Baby’ is not his usual style. He called the track an “unabashed pop song”, coming to find deep meaning even in the more upbeat pop lyricism.

It was actually a therapist that made him open his heart to the track. When appearing on a podcast, Browne recounts moaning about the song in a session when his therapist said, “You’ve got it all wrong. This is about something important. Everybody wants to belong to somebody. Everybody wants to feel loved, and this is the most fundamental thing.”

The hit proves that even the most fun pop songs can have deep meaning and an edge to them.

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