Song of the Day #4,689: “I Am a Patriot’ – Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne closed out the 80s with another political album, 1989’s World in Motion. It was another misstep.

How can a man who wrote such poignant and perceptive lyrics about the human condition release a song containing this verse: “When you think about the money spent on defense by a government and the weapons of destruction we’ve built, we’re so sure that we need, and you think of the millions and millions that money could feed, how long can you hear someone crying, how long can you hear someone dying, before you ask yourself why?”

When I listen to this album and its predecessor, all I can think about is Randy Newman’s song ‘A Piece of the Pie,’ about America’s economic divide.

During the chorus, Newman sings “Jesus Christ, it stinks here high and low! / The rich are getting richer – I should know / While we’re going up, you’re going down / And no one gives a shit but Jackson Browne / Jackson Browne”

And later… “Jesus Christ, it stinks here low and high! / Some get rich, and others just get by / Bono’s off in Africa, he’s never around / Country turns its lonely eyes to who? / Jackson Browne, Jackson Browne, Jackson Browne”

Now Randy Newman… there’s a guy who can write about societal ills with wit and wisdom. His satire cuts deeper and stimulates more thought than a dozen didactic Jackson Browne songs.

In fact, the best song on World in Motion isn’t a Jackson Browne song, but a cover of Steven Van Zandt’s ‘I Am a Patriot.’

Fortunately, Browne left his moralizing behind on his next album. We’ll move into the 90s tomorrow.

And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
Someday

I was walking with my brother
And he wondered what’s on my mind
I said what I believe in my soul
Ain’t what I see with my eyes
And we can’t turn our backs this time

I am a patriot
And I love my county
Because my country is all I know
I want to be with my family
The people who understand me
I’ve got nowhere else to go

And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
Someday

And I was talking with my sister
She looked so fine
I said, “Baby, what’s on your mind?”
She said, “I want to run like the lion”
Released from the cages
Released from the rages
Burning in my heart tonight

And I ain’t no communist
And I ain’t no capitalist
And I ain’t no socialist
And I ain’t no imperialist
And I ain’t no democrat
Sure ain’t no republican
I only know one party
And it is freedom

I am, I am, I am
I am a patriot
And I love my country
Because my county is all I know

And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
And the river opens for the righteous
Someday

And the river opens for the righteous…

5 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,689: “I Am a Patriot’ – Jackson Browne

  1. Amy says:

    You’ll get no argument from me that Newman’s satiric approach is far more effective than didactic lyrics, but I do believe songwriters should write about what moves them. The fact that Browne was so known for his concern for the country that he made a Newman lyric should be a point of pride, as far as I’m concerned.

    • Clay says:

      I agree that songwriters should write about what moves them, and I commend Browne for caring enough about societal issues to dedicate a chunk of his catalog to them. It just doesn’t work for me as entertainment or enlightenment.

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    I am less a fan of this album than Lives in the Balance, but I still think, as was mentioned by Russ yesterday, your aversion to political lyrics skews your ability to appreciate some really good sounding music. The irony of your comparison of Browne to Newman, and quoting “A Piece of the Pie” as some example of a knock against Browne is that Newman is actually praising his friend Browne for raising public awareness to social and political issues when the country seemed to turn away in the 70s and 80s. If Browne’s music is good enough for Newman, it’s good enough for me. Here’s a short interview with Newman about the lyric and Browne:

    • Clay says:

      I will grant you (and Russ) that all of these songs *sound* very good. I very much like the construction and production of just about everything I’ve heard from Browne so far. It’s in the lyrics that he loses me (after impressing me so much with his lyrics through his first half dozen albums).

  3. Russ Paris says:

    This is not my favorite Jackson Browne album, so I’m not going to try to change your mind about it. I’m not a fan of Scott Thurston’s production. But there are some good very songs that make it worth the listen.

    World In Motion peaked at #45 on Billboard’s Top Pop Album Chart. The title track reached #4 on Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks chart. “Chasing You Into the Light” reached #9 on the Album Rock Tracks chart, and “Anything Can Happen” reached #23 on the Adult Contemporary chart. All 3 of these songs are really good.

    Bonnie Raitt sings harmony on the title track. David Crosby sings harmony on “The Word Justice”.

    The cover of Little Steven’s “I Am a Patriot” may be the best track on the album, but at the time I was a little disappointed with it for two reasons. (1) I thought Little Steven’s original version was better. (2) Jackson had been performing “I Am a Patriot” as a solo acoustic encore to his shows the prior year and I felt that the version he was doing onstage was more powerful than the recording.

    “Lights And Virtues” is a track that qualifies as one of those lost deep track gems in Jackson’s catalog. I never thought much about the song when the album first came out, but now it’s one of those tracks that I really enjoy listening to. Should have been a single.

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