For a Dancer

Singer/songwriter Jackson Browne turned 60 this past Thursday. If you were listening to popular music in the 1970’s, you are familiar with his music in one way or another. Already writing songs as a teenager, he started out (briefly) with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in California in the mid-1960s. He headed out to make a name for himself in Greenwich Village, supporting Tim Buckley and teaming up with the mysterious Nico, who recorded three of his songs.

Tom Rush introduced Browne’s work to a wider audience with his stellar performance of Browne’s “Shadow Dream Song” on “The Circle Game” in 1968. It’s an intriguing song that I don’t think Browne himself has ever released. He says it was already “an old, old song” by the time he recorded his first album in 1972.

Browne’s first first five albums are full of well-written songs that have touched a lot of people, me included. One song that stays with me is “For a Dancer,” performed below with David Lindley. It’s a moving meditation on art and death triggered by the loss of an old friend: “I can’t help feeling stupid standing around/Crying as they ease you down/’Cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing…” The song seems to be a descendant of Yeats’s great poem “Among School Children.”

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