The Meaning Behind “Somebody’s Baby” by Jackson Browne and Why He Regrets a Key Decision Concerning the Song

Jackson Browne scored his biggest hit ever with a song that he was a bit ambivalent about recording. “Somebody’s Baby” certainly benefited from appearing in a hit movie. But the 1982 tune also found Browne writing and singing with a directness and ease that may have surprised even his most diehard fans who were used to his eloquent epics.

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What is the song about? Who co-wrote the song with Browne and helped convince him to come on board? And why did Browne later regret a key decision he made concerning the song? The story of “Somebody’s Baby” begins with, of all people, a music journalist-turned-filmmaker.

Ridgemont Requirements

Cameron Crowe made his mark throughout the ’70s as a top music journalist before shifting into screenwriting. His first script, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, came from a book he wrote while going undercover as a California high school student. Considering his musical connections, he had no issues bringing in big names for the soundtrack, a double album jam-packed with the leading lights of the SoCal music scene.

Danny Kortchmar, an ace session guitarist who also worked with several top artists as a songwriter, was among those asked to write songs for the film. He penned “Love Rules” with longtime collaborator Don Henley. In addition, he came up with the framework for another song, and thought that he knew the perfect guy to write the lyrics, as he told Songfacts:

“So I had all the music and the ‘must be somebody’s baby’ part. That’s what I brought to him: all the guitar parts and everything else. I knew he was the guy to write with, Jackson being the brilliant writer he is.”

Browne’s Uncertainty

Browne certainly heard the potential in what Kortchmar had already done. But he also admitted that he struggled to come up with the lyrics for the track. What he wrote turned out to be just the ticket, of course. “Somebody’s Baby,” boosted by Kortchmar’s infectious melody and Browne’s relaxed vocal, hit No. 7 on the pop charts, which is the highest one of his songs ever reached.

But he also wasn’t sure how the song fit in with the rest of his body of work. In fact, those feelings were so potent that he neglected to include “Somebody’s Baby” on his 1983 album Lawyers in Love (a decision that he would come to regret when the album struggled sales-wise). In an interview with Route Magazine, Browne explained how he overcame these feelings about the song:

“A therapist that I used to see said, ‘Look, I think you’re wrong about this song,’ because I was really hard on the song. He said, ‘I think that the song is about something really important. It’s that everybody wants to belong to somebody, wants to be wanted, and the idea that you see somebody, and you think that they must be taken,’ and that whole idea. He said, ‘It’s about something really so simple and so valid that it doesn’t even come on your screen.'”

What is the Meaning of “Somebody’s Baby?”

“Somebody’s Baby” borrows some of the imagery that Browne first employed on his song “Boulevard” from the 1980 album Hold Out. ‘Cause when the cars and the signs and the streetlights light up the town, he sings, setting the scene against which the heroine struts. Browne doesn’t describe her looks other than to talk about the lights comin’ up in her eyes.

Those lights come back into play in the chorus, when he sings, She’s probably somebody’s only light / Gonna shine tonight. Browne then does something clever in the bridge when he switches to the first person. Suddenly, we’re not just hearing a tribute to a special girl. We’re now involved in a take of unrequited love: I know I’m gonna know her but I gotta get over my fright / Well, I’m just gonna walk up to her, I’m gonna talk to her tonight.

We never find out if this guy followed through on his promises and actually met this girl. But we do know that Jackson Browne showed in “Somebody’s Baby” that he could charm a pop audience just as well as he could wow the singer/songwriter faithful.

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