You know your hunger like you know your name
I got your number if it’s still the same
You can dream
But you can never go back the way you came.” *
Sure, over the years my musical tastes and interests have been shaped and guided by friends and boyfriends, but I owe my love of music entirely to my father. The joy I get from that song and dance goes all the way back to childhood moments being spun around the living room in my fathers arms to tunes by Stevie Wonder, Chicago, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Over the years, Dad and I have seen many bands together; earlier this year I’d bought my father two tickets to go see Jackson Browne (another of his favorites from way back) as a combo Father’s Day/birthday gift. Steve Earle, who is one of my favorite singer/songwriters, was the opening act so the understanding was that Dad and I would go together. The show was last Sunday, August 2nd, in Camden, NJ.
I’d asked her to see what she may never see
And now my kind words find their way back to me.”
The drive was long, but no matter. The moments when I have my dad’s undivided attention for hours at a time are so rare that I’d been anticipating the conversations and stories that would unwind between us for weeks. There was no traffic; we tailgated in the parking lot, sharing four beers and an Italian combo hero the size of my forearm. The sun sifted down, the breeze distracted itself, and the people eased into the open-air theater.
Even when she’s blue
Silver clouds surround her.”
Steve Earle’s set was very mellow since he covered a lot of Townes Van Zandt’s songs. I wished he’d played some of his own, more aggressive material, but clearly he was in a very sentimental mood as he remembered his teacher, Townes. Earle did not disappoint with his stories; in true style of folk/blues/country singers, he tells a few rambling tales leading in to his songs. They reveal a bit of who he is, and always make me think about people and experiences in my own life.
I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring.
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening?”
After a 20-minute break, Jackson Browne took the stage. Man, is he smooth. His voice is still so supple, and his band puts out tight and textured support. Browne has a huge library of his compositions to choose from, and his set list was full of songs I’d either never heard before or hadn’t heard in years. The tunes were melancholic, reflective, and seeking. I wish I knew what songs were played, some were so beautiful and true I want to own them and listen to them over and over. Dad and I sat there in equal states of rapt attention, talking little and instead listening companionably. Every now and then my dad would cock an ear and say, “Is that it?” hoping Browne would bust out his quintessential tour song, “The Load Out.”
Don’t confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten them.”
Gifts are a tricky business; they can run the gamut from a mere token to a full-on grand gesture of devotion and admiration. I didn’t know that my dad had never seen Browne live despite years of being a fan when I gave him the tickets, so this gift turned out to be better than even I could have hoped. By the time Browne came out for his encore, my dad’s desire to hear “The Load Out” was palpable. I found myself silently beseeching the band to launch into it, knowing I couldn’t bear his disappointment if they left it out. Finally, the opening chords of my dad’s favorite Jackson Browne song spread over the crowd like an incoming tide. We exchanged grins, and I wiped away a few tears of relief. I knew that feeling, and I know you know it too– you don’t even realize you’ve been waiting so long for something to happen, but when it does every part of you recognizes the satisfaction. That kind of soul pleasure hits your brain, your heart, the back of your neck, the tips of your toes.
I’d love to stick around but I’m running behind
You know I don’t even know what I’m hoping to find.”
*Songs, in order or quotation. They are by Jackson Browne unless otherwise noted. You Love the Thunder, My Opening Farewell, Sparkel and Shine by Steve Earle, The Pretender, These Days, Running on Empty