The other night I happened to look into the 92nd St 'Y' auditorium and there was my old hero Jackson Browne doing a one-on-one for the Songwriter’s series…. It was the very end, and the final summation was a moving acoustic performance (‘These days I sit and think a lot about the things that I forgot to do…and all the time I had the chance to…’). Poignantly—or not so poignantly, he commented that he’d written that song at the age of 16 (‘don’t confront me with my failures…I’ve not forgotten them’).
I couldn’t help thinking about his 2 deceased ex-girlfriends from the days when his romantic activities were newsworthy—one a suicide—and his rather over-dramatic relationship with Darryl Hannah (didn’t she pull the same public tantrums with JFK Jr.?) which made us girls slightly less susceptible to his murky romanticism and the Dorian Grayness of his ageless face and unchanged hair. After all, it was nearly 40 years since my first JB album.
Still, hearing the song put me into a nostalgic ‘stall’. I teared up, had a quick stab of sympathy toward the thug I have been involved with… was I transferring the soul of JB’s lyrics to my guy? Wasn’t Jackson’s reputation a successful womanizer with perfect hair who managed to extract and inject into his songs exactly the sort of nostalgia that anthemized our generation? I could actually smell the morning dew and stale smoke wafting into my college room as I lay with my first beautiful serious boyfriend and listened to ‘Late for the Sky ‘ on the turntable.
As I was leaving the 'Y' I remembered standing outside at a Jackson Browne concert—maybe 1973---- with several girls… waiting for a moment to maybe shake his hand, maybe to catch his eye, this musical poet who had seduced and captivated our young hearts and moved us to anticipate future regret. Funny, at the age of 60-whatever, Jackson had that same vacant look in his eyes which disarmed us all that night. That disconnect. But the song--- I would go home and youtube it to death until I was drowning in a rainy evening of nostalgia, regret and empathy even for my son whose 3rd i-phone contract had just been cancelled for non-payment and excessive use as a betting instrument.
Outside on the front steps was the usual nightly gathering of young college 'Y' residents.. .the music and drama school students smoking and socializing… the genetically evolved 21st century hotties feeling their prime. As Jackson left the building, they were not even shoving over to make his passage easier. What did they care, these downloaders of Lil Wayne and Nicky Minaj, followers of Entourage and True Blood, about a middle aged man with a guitar case? Kanye has not yet sampled ‘These Days’ or ‘Everyman’. Or even the Eagles version of ‘Take it Easy’… and if he did, who'd care about this guy? Like myself, he'd reached the age of invisibility.
No matter what we produce or how successful one is, you reach a certain age where unless you're Joan Rivers or maybe Donald Trump, no one really recognizes your persona anymore. Everyone needs a nametag by their 40th highschool reunion. In the public eye, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Oliver Stone, even Sir Paul and Sean Penn need to be captioned. They've become members of the cult of invisibility, like it or not. It is a kind of rite of passage... we go from generic baby to adolescence to some kind of beauty to faded greyness. Like the wicked witch, a bucket of water is all it takes to eradicate our flesh. And what remains? The song remains-- the lyrics, the music perhaps will be re-recorded by someone young and captivating... poems hopefully will be e-read, paintings will be hung and antiques appreciated. For the resistant, there is plastic surgery and botox, but for the rest of us there is TCM and the museum. For me, these are My Days. The song will always be My Song. For the others, there are ghosts. There are Those Days. And then some...