5 Songs You Didn’t Know Jackson Browne Wrote for Other Artists

In a career spanning more than five decades, Jackson Browne‘s lyrical offerings span human emotion, connection, politics, and beyond.

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Getting his start by performing in folk clubs in Los Angeles and Orange County as a teen in the 1960s writing “These Days”—a song that would later be recorded by Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico—Jackson Browne went on to write several songs for the Jeff Hanna-led Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (briefly joining the band in 1966), along with the Eagles and others while writing songs for himself and eventually releasing his self-titled debut in 1972 and hits “Rock Me On The Water” and “Doctor My Eyes.”

[RELATED WEB STORY: Songs Written by Jackson Brown]

Though some songs in the 1960s through ’70s were ones Browne would later record himself, he did hand a number of his lyrics over to other artists first.

Here are five songs Jackson Browne wrote and co-wrote for other artists.

1. “These Days,” Nico (1967)
Written by Jackson Browne

For Nico’s 1967 solo debut, Chelsea Girl, Browne gave her two songs: “The Fairest of the Seasons,” which he co-wrote with Gregory Copeland, and one of his earliest written pieces “These Days.” The latter is a song Browne wrote when he was just 16, and one that deals with regret and loss.

I’ve been out walking
I don’t do too much talking
These days, these days
These days I seem to think a lot
About the things that I forgot to do
And all the times I had the chance to.

I’ve stopped my rambling
I don’t do too much gambling
These days, these days
These days I seem to think about
How all the changes came about my ways
And I wonder if I’d see another highway

Throughout the ’70s, Nico’s version of “These Days,” which featured Browne fingerpicking electric guitar on the recorded version—a suggestion of her then-manager Andy Warhol— along with overdubbed flutes and strings, was covered by other artists including The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their album Rare Junk in 1968, Tom Rush on his 1970 self-titled album and Gregg Allman for his 1973 album Laid Back.

Brown eventually recorded the song himself, around Allman’s arrangement, for his second album For Everyman, also released in 1973.

2. “She’s a Flying Thing,” Steve Noonan (1968)
Written by Jackson Browne

“She’s a Flying Thing” was written by Jackson Browne and first recorded by Steve Noonan on his first and only album in 1968, which was self-titled. The album also featured three additional song contributions by Browne, who first recorded “She’s a Flying Things” on some early demos in the late ’60s when he was in his late teens.

She’s a flying thing that sings
With her eyes like smoky rings
The sun can feel her presence in the sky
And I think I’m gonna stay
‘Cause there’s nothing in our way
And she says that she can teach me how to fly

If I could love her more
Than I have ever loved before
Then tomorrow I’ll be standing at her door

3. Jamaica Say You Will,” The Byrds (1971)
Written by Jackson Browne

Though it’s a song Browne had written for himself and recorded on his 1972 self-titled debut, “Jamaica Say You Will” was first released by The Byrds on their 10th album, Byrdmaniax. The song was produced by Kim Fowley a year before Browne’s version was released, featuring David Crosby on harmony vocals. It tells a real-life experience of a fabled love, documented by Browne, and even fit into some of the water-based themes around his debut (“Rock Me on the Water”) and the album’s original cover, which had the appearance of a water bag with the wording “Saturate Before Using,” a label that was later removed.

The daughter of a captain
On the rolling seas
She would stare across
The water from the trees
Last time he was home
He held her on his knees
And said, the next time
They would sail away
Just where they pleased

“I thought I was kind of writing it for this girl I knew that worked in a garden in Zuma Beach, across the street from the Pacific Ocean, and she worked in this organic food orchard like the Garden of Eden, and she was the kind of Eden-like girl, too,” said Browne. ”When I created the fable of this girl who lived by the sea and whose father is a captain, and eventually she would be taken away and go sailing off, I wanted to hide in the relationship. I wanted to sort of have the cocoon of this relationship to just stay sort of insulated from the world.”

Browne added, “And she was ready to move out into the world, and … the relationship had broken up. That’s the reality that was going on in my life. I just think it’s odd that that’s exactly how songs come into being, but if you feel it, it’s about something.”

Jamaica, say you will
Help me find a way to fill
These lifeless sails
And stay until
My ships can find the sea

When The Byrds’ eighth album Ballad of Easy Rider (1969) was remastered in 1997, another rare track written for the band by Browne, “Mae Jean Goes to Hollywood,” appeared within the bonus tracks of the reissue.

4. “Take It Easy,” Eagles (1972)
Written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey

The Eagles’ self-titled debut opened on one of the band’s biggest hits: “Take It Easy.” Originally written by Browne for his 1972 debut, the song was later co-written with his friend, the late Eagles vocalist Glenn Frey, who sings on the track. After Browne showed Frey the beginnings of the song, the Eagle offered to finish it for him. “He kept after me to finish it, and finally offered to finish it himself,” said Browne. “And after a couple of times when I declined to have him finish my song, I said, ‘all right … this is ridiculous. Go ahead and finish it. Do it.’ And he finished it in spectacular fashion. And what’s more, [he] arranged it in a way that was far superior to what I had written.”

Browne also handed over the track “Nightingale” (sung by Don Henley), an unreleased track from his first album, for the Eagles’ debut. He later contributed more songs to the Eagles, including “Doolin-Dalton,” which he co-wrote with Henley, Frey, and J. D. Souther for their second album Desperado in 1973. The foursome also co-wrote “James Dean,” an ode to the late Hollywood actor and the second single off the Eagles’ 1974 follow-up album On the Border.

“Take It Easy” peaked at No. 12 on the Hot 100 chart, and Browne later recorded the song on his second album, For Everyman. The song is listed as one of “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll” by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Take It easy, take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can
Don’t even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand and take it easy

5. “Tenderness on the Block,” Warren Zevon (1978)
Written by Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon’s third album Excitable Boy, which was produced by Jackson Browne and Waddy Wachtel (session musician for The Rolling Stones, Stevie Nicks, Iggy Pop, and more), gave Zevon some commercial success with the album reaching No. 8 on the Billboard 200 along with the off-beat single “Werewolves of London”—which featured Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass—peaking at No. 21 on the Hot 100 chart where it remained for six weeks. Aside from producing the album, Browne also penned the penultimate “Tenderness on the Block,” the tale of a young woman’s coming of age, and falling in love, from a father’s perspective.

Mama, where’s your pretty little girl tonight?
Trying to run before she can walk, that’s right
She’s growing up, she has a young man waiting
She’s growing up, she has a young man waiting

Wide eyes, she’ll be street-wise
To the lies and the jive talk
But she’ll find true love
And tenderness on the block

Photo: Scott Newton / Austin City Limits

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