That Time Jackson Browne Got Political With ‘Lawyers in Love’
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As Jackson Browne prepared to release his sixth studio album, the singer-songwriter was at the peak of his pop success. His previous LP, 1980’s Hold Out, was Browne’s first (and only) album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Plus, he had scored his biggest hit single with 1982’s “Somebody’s Baby,” featured on the soundtrack to Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
But chart positions were hardly Browne’s primary concern. In the late-’70s and early-’80s, he had earned a profile as a politically conscious rock star, especially when it came to nuclear power. Browne performed (and was even arrested) at nuclear power station protests. Plus, he helped organize the Musicians United for Safe Energy concerts (filmed for the No Nukes concert movie), in reaction to the accident at Three Mile Island.
Yet Browne’s political ideals had not found a place on his records, until he released the Lawyers in Love album on Aug. 2, 1983. From a musical standpoint, the disc maintained the artist’s easy-going pop-rock sound. The only significant personnel change was the absence of multi-instrumentalist David Lindley, who had appeared on every one of the rocker’s previous albums. From a lyrical angle, however, Jackson Browne was making big changes.
Some perceived the title track – a satire of yuppies in the Reagan era – as a key transition between Browne’s personal music of the ’70s and his more overtly political songs of the late ’80s. Accompanied by a memorable MTV video, the single hit No. 13 on the charts and remains notable for being a humorous standout in Browne’s otherwise earnest catalog.
Elsewhere on the album, the songwriter got a little more serious. For instance, on “Say It Isn’t True,” Browne railed against nuclear weapons and warfare in general. While fans and critics agreed with the sentiment, they weren’t pleased with his hokey approach. The musician would find greater success at writing political material on future albums.
Still, Lawyers in Love did well for Browne. It was his third Top 10 album in a row, went gold in its year of release and launched four singles (including “Tender is the Night” and “For a Rocker,” which both hit the Top 50 and earned significant airplay). More importantly, it marked the beginning of a new era in Jackson Browne’s musical career.
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