Song of the Week – Rock Me on the Water, For Everyman & Before the Deluge; Jackson Browne

Ignored             Obscured              Restored

Today’s post was written by frequent guest contributor, Michael Paquette.  I hope you like it!

There are three songs in the early lexicon of Jackson Browne’s work that speak to the angst of the seventies brought on by the loss of a generation that sought social change and instead had morphed into a “Me” generation that was more about personal reflection.

The first of these songs is “Rock Me on the Water” from his 1972 debut album.

The social movements of the sixties were still fresh when Jackson Browne released this material.  Like much of his material this song is a lament rather than a battle cry.  The song opens with “the signs are everywhere you’ve left it for somebody other than you to be the one to care.”  Then in the third verse, he entreats his listeners with the line, “people look around you, it’s there your hope must lie.”  He holds out hope that the “fires are still burning, hotter and hotter” and that we will “get down to the sea somehow” and the “sisters of the sun” will “rock me on the water.”  Through this, maybe, we will remember how to return to the sense of social awareness and action.

His second album took two years to write.  The title cut from the album is called “For Everyman.”

This song was written as a response to the escapist vision of David Crosby’s “Wooden Ships.”  This classic appeared on the first Crosby, Stills & Nash release (1969) and was covered by the Jefferson Airplane on their Volunteers album in the same year.  In the song, Crosby envisioned how he and his entourage would sail away on his boat if society broke down or there was a nuclear war.  Browne’s song poses the question, what about everyone who doesn’t have the resources to sail away?  The song opens with an acknowledgment that his friends are planning to leave society because:

They’ve seen the end coming down 

Long enough to believe

That they’ve heard their last warning

But Browne still holds onto the concern For Everyman.  His concept of social change is through collective action, and the song concludes with his message to the ones who are leaving.

I’m not trying to tell you

That I’ve seen the plan

Turn and walk away if you think I am

But don’t think too badly

Of one who’s left holding sand

He’s just another dreamer

Dreaming about Everyman

This song clings to hope against the loss of the ideals of the ‘60s generation.

The third song is from Browne’s third album Late for the SkyLftS was written in about six weeks in 1974 as the ‘60s were receding into memory at the height of the Watergate scandal.  It was a massive achievement for him as he emerged as one of the brightest singer/songwriters of the era alongside such titans as Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. The record featured the multi-talented artist David Lindley, who had been touring with Browne.  It is a spare and underproduced work.  It became his first gold record and reached #14 on the Billboard charts.  Much of it was written on a grand piano with his infant son crawling nearby on the floor.  The album concludes with the masterpiece “Before the Deluge.”

It opens with a reflection on the generation that was left behind.

Some of them were dreamers

And some of them were fools

Who were making plans and thinking of the future

With the energy of the innocent

They were gathering the tools 

They would need to make their journey back to nature

But much of the hope and idealism of this era are lost in a sudden rush to drugs and hedonism.  Many have forgotten and abandoned their values.  The generation that sought social change has turned inward for spiritual reflection, and many gave up trying to pursue change, except within.  

Some of them knew pleasure

And some of them knew pain

And for some of them it was only the moment that mattered

And on the brave and crazy wings of youth

They went flying around in the rain

And their feathers, once so fine, grew torn and tattered

And in the end they traded their tired wings

For the resignation that living brings

And exchanged love’s bright and fragile glow

For the glitter and the rouge

And in a moment they were swept before the deluge.

Browne also mentions that “some of them were angry” at the way the earth was abused but they have forsaken their call to arms and instead became preoccupied with their own lives.  This song still resonates with the loss of ideals, social change, and responsibility that is evident in recent years.  “Before the Deluge” offers less chance of renewal or escape, yet it does end with the idea that nature will reveal its secrets by and by.  Whether this will be a dark reveal or a light to the end of the tunnel remains to be seen.

Jackson Browne has always kept true to his values to use his music to speak out for causes of justice in society (antinuclear energy, antiwar in Central America, and support for Farm Aid and Amnesty International).

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – These Days, Nico, Gregg Allman, Ian Matthews, Mates of State


One of my favorite artists in the singer-songwriter genre is Jackson Browne. I know, in these times when women are fighting to save themselves from sexual assaulters, coming out to pay tribute to Browne might not be politically correct. (He was accused of domestic violence against his then-girlfriend Daryl Hannah, since retracted – but the damage has been done.) I’m focused on the quality of his songs, not his personal life. Besides, he has been a solid citizen throughout his life, fighting for the environment and many other political causes that are important to him (and me).

Early in his career, his songs were recognized as gems by many prominent artists that recorded them long before he did. The list includes Tom Rush, Joan Baez, The Byrds, Eagles and Linda Ronstadt.

Today’s SotW is another installment of the “evolution” series, “These Days,” that is such a wonderful composition that it has been captured in outstanding performances by many artists.

Browne wrote “These Days” when he was about 16 years old. The first recording was done by Nico of the Velvet Underground on her solo album, Chelsea Girl (1967). Browne, who was at the time linked romantically with her, played electric guitar on the track.

Another outstanding version was laid down by Gregg Allman on his first solo album, Laid Back (1973). Browne himself said of Allman’s arrangement “that he really unlocked a power in that song that I sort of then emulated in my version.”

Allman learned the song when the pre-Allman Brothers band The Hour Glass was plying their trade in LA. His bluesy voice wrings out every drop of emotion that the song’s lyrics of sadness and regret have to offer.

Another fine version was recorded about the same time by Ian Matthews on his 1973 release Valley Hi – an album that Rolling Stone called “a sensuous delight.”

Matthews’ take has a little more of a pop feel, but still retains the song’s disconsolate sentiment.

A more modern approach was recorded by Mates of State. I prefer the live-in-studio track they cut for Daytrotter in 2006, but it’s not available on YouTube. So here’s the officially released version that was on the soundtrack to the film Wicker Park.

Mates of State are a husband and wife duo from CT via CA via KS. The simplicity of their keyboard, percussion and harmony version is charming.

Browne finally recorded his own version on his second album, For Everyman (1973). What else can I say about “These Days” other than it ends with one of the most poignant lines EVAH!

Don’t confront me with my failures / I had not forgotten them

The self reflective tone of the lyrics of “These Days” seems especially relevant as we near the year end.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Doctor My Eyes, Jackson Browne & Hello Old Friend, Eric Clapton – feat. Jesse Ed Davis


When it comes to inspiration for the SotW, I believe in serendipity. Recently my friend Julie C. alerted me to a film she thought I’d be interested in. The movie that premiered at the 2017 Sundance Festival in January is called Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World. Julie was right; I checked out the flick and it was right up my alley. It told the story of the significant contributions Native Americans have made to rock music – from Charley Patton and Mildred Bailey to Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix and Jesse Ed Davis (and more).

Around the same time I saw an article on a blog I’ve recently begun following called Music Aficionado titled “Have You Heard Jesse Ed Davis?” That’s all the push I needed to do a deep dive into his work.

I was familiar with much of his work because I’m of the age where we would scour the details of every credit written on an album cover or sleeve. Davis, a full blood Kiowa Comanche Indian, was listed on some of my favorites – Walls and Bridges and Rock ‘n’ Roll by John Lennon, George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, and the unfortunately under recognized Asylum Choir II by Leon Russell and Marc Benno.

But his resume is way deeper than that. He worked with Taj Mahal and played slide on his version of “Statesboro Blues” that reputedly inspired Duane Allman to take up the slide (and copied Davis’ riff). He also worked with Buffy Sainte-Marie, Gene Clark, Neil Diamond, Harry Nilsson, Arlo Guthrie, Leonard Cohen, Rod Stewart, Bryan Ferry and several of the blues greats like John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins and the Kings – B.B. and Albert. Obviously, he was a guitarist in demand! He also released several solo albums that mostly went unnoticed but deserve to be heard.

The first SotW is “Doctor My Eyes” by Jackson Browne.

The brief but stylish solo at 1:45 was laid down by Davis on the first (and only) take! I have to assume those are also his tasty licks that are played throughout the cut.

The next SotW is “Hello Old Friend” by Eric Clapton.

When guitar god Eric Clapton invites you to play a slide lead on one of his songs, you gotta have something special… and Davis delivers.

Davis got little work after 1977, the result of his escalating drug and alcohol abuse and the detrimental effects it had on his health, culminating in a stroke. He died in 1988, apparently of a heroin overdose, when his body was found on the floor of a laundry room in Venice, CA.

But the joy in his music has kept his spirit alive and will continue to be appreciated for many years to come.

Enjoy… until next week.