40 Years Ago: Jackson Browne Starts Getting Political on ‘Lawyers in Love’
As Jackson Browne prepared to release his sixth studio album, he 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 chart. Plus, he had scored his biggest hit single with 1982’s "Somebody’s Baby," featured on the soundtrack to Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Chart positions were hardly Browne’s primary concern. In the late-’70s and early-’80s, Browne had earned a profile as a politically conscious rock star, especially when it came to nuclear power. He performed (and was even arrested) at nuclear power station protests. He also 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 his 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 Browne’s previous albums.
Listen to Jackson Browne's 'Lawyers in Love'
There were big changes from a lyrical angle, too. 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 Lawyers in Love, he got a little more serious. For instance, Browne railed against nuclear weapons and warfare in general on "Say It Isn’t True." Fans and critics may have agreed with the sentiment, but they weren’t pleased with his hokey approach. Browne would find greater success at writing political material on future albums.
Still, the record did well. This was Browne's third Top 10 LP in a row, as the platinum-selling Lawyers in Love 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.