Song of the Day #4,690: “Sky Blue and Black’ – Jackson Browne

I was critical of Jackson Browne’s last two albums of the 80s, but all is forgiven with the arrival of 1993’s I’m Alive. Inspired by his breakup with actress Daryl Hannah, this record marks a return to the personal, confessional songwriting of his early triumphs.

I’m Alive deserves a spot among the great breakup albums. It is sadly beautiful and beautifully sad, a marvel melodically and lyrically. Browne’s words are heartfelt and perceptive, both raw from the painful separation and wise about the path behind and in front of him.

I’m Alive has its share of gut punches (today’s SOTD among them) but it also finds some lighter moments among the pain. This isn’t a record to wallow in, but one that feels like the end of a healing journey, with an eye on what comes next.

I haven’t listened to this album a whole lot in the nearly 20 years since its release, but every time I do I find it richer. The insight and humanity in these songs is more evident the older I get.

[Verse 1]
In the calling out to one another of the lovers up and down the strand
In the sound of the waves and the cries of the seagulls circling the sand
In the fragments of the songs carried down the wind from some radio
In the murmuring of the city in the distance ominous and low

[Pre-Chorus 1]
I hear the sound of the world where we played
And the far too simple beauty of the promises we made

[Chorus 1]
If you ever need holding
Call my name, I’ll be there
If you ever need holding
And no holding back, I’ll see you through

Sky blue and black

[Verse 2]
Where the touch of the lover ends and the soul of the friend begins
There’s a need to be separate and a need to be one and a struggle neither wins
Where you gave me the world I was in and a place I could make a stand
I could never see how you doubted me when I’d let go of your hand

[Pre-Chorus 2]
Yeah, and I was much younger then
And I must have thought that I would know if things were going to end

[Chorus 2]
And the heavens were rolling
Like a wheel on a track
And our sky was unfolding
And it’ll never fold back

Sky blue and black

[Guitar Solo]

[Bridge]
And I’d have fought the world for you
If I thought that you wanted me to
Or put aside what was true or untrue
If I’d known that’s what you needed
What you needed me to do

[Pre-Chorus 3]
But the moment has passed by me now
To have put away my pride and just come through for you somehow

[Chorus]

[Outro]
You’re the color of the sky reflected in each store-front window pane
You’re the whispering and the sighing of my tires in the rain
You’re the hidden cost and the thing that’s lost in everything I do
Yeah and I’ll never stop looking for you
In the sunlight and the shadows and the faces on the avenue
That’s the way love is
That’s the way love is
That’s the way love is
Sky blue and black

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,690: “Sky Blue and Black’ – Jackson Browne

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    While I admittedly have a nostalgic soft spot for Lives in the Balance and Running on Empty, and subject to becoming more familiar with his first few records, I’m Alive is, in my opinion, Browne’s best album. It has been years since I have heard the whole album, but each time I hear a track, including the title track I heard just the other day, I am again reminded of the album’s depth and beauty.

  2. Amy says:

    I, too, haven’t listened to this album in years but loved it when it was released. It was one of those albums that made you wonder if your favorite artists needed to be miserable in love to create wonderful music. With some of the stories recently circulating about Browne’s behavior towards Hannah, it’s hard not to listen to a song like this one with a different perspective. I guess that’s the fascinating thing about a songwriter’s glimpse into his most personal moments… maybe he is providing insight into his perspective or maybe he’s spinning the narrative to convey what he wants to believe – or wants his audience to believe. 🤷🏻‍♀️

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