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Socially Responsible Music of the 80's is Still Relevant Today

Updated on June 25, 2014

It's funny how one of those profound thoughts will jump out at you from nowhere. You know the type. It happens when you're doing something you've done for centuries and suddenly it's like you're doing it for the first time. Well, it's happened to me again.

Late last night, I was taking a break from my Hubpages addiction. I peeked into my Netflix queue, looking for something light to watch. My choice for the evening was a documentary on one of my favorite musicians from back in my younger days. He was a favorite then because his lyrics told stories and, because he was an activist for the environment and American Indians. You have probably guessed that it was Jackson Browne.


Who Is Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne has been writing and performing since the mid 60's. He has sold over 17 million albums and written songs for dozens of other musicians. He is a storyteller, an accomplished producer, talented performed and a political activist.

He is a co-founder of

He is a fighter for human rights, arts education, and the environment. He is a recipient of the Duke University LEAF award for Lifetime Environmental Achievement in Fine Arts and the John Steinbeck Award for his work on environmental and social issues. Jackson Browne cares and is doing something, not just talking about it.

Back to the Present

Those of you who know me at all, know that I care about our country and our environment and, I think we are on a pathway of destruction for both. I have lost all confidence that "we, the people" have a fair representation in Washington. I am concerned that we continue to send our brave men and women to fight wars for people who won't fight for themselves. I am worried that the greedy of our world are spending our money and saving theirs. And, I know that our policy makers will say anything to win a race and do nothing once they've won it. Is it any wonder that I was looking for an escape last night and chose a documentary on music rather than watching the news?

After thoroughly enjoying the music and interviews for almost an hour, Jackson Browne began to play a song that I remembered. I couldn't remember what album it was on but I knew it was an older song and that it had spoken to me when I first heard it years ago. It was a song about the political climate in our country and it easily could have been written this week. It was just that relevant. I'll share the lyric with you and I think you'll agree.

"Lives In The Balance" - Jackson Browne

"I've been waiting for something to happen, for a week or a month or a year

with the blood in the ink of the headlines, and the sound of the crowd in my ear.

You might ask what it takes to remember, when you know that you've seen it before,

where a government lies to a people and a country is drifting to war.

And there's a shadow on the faces of the men who send the guns

To the wars that are fought in places where their business interest runs.

On the radio talk shows and the TV you hear one thing again and again,

how the USA. stands for freedom and we come to the aid of a friend.

But who are the ones that we call our friends - these governments killing their own?

Or the people who finally can't take any more and they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone.

There are lives in the balance, there are people under fire.

There are children at the cannons and there is blood on the wire.

There's a shadow on the faces of the men who fan the flames,

of the wars that are fought in places where we can't even say the names.

They sell us the president the same way they sell us our clothes and our cars.

They sell us every thing from youth to religion, the same time they sell us our wars.

I want to know who the men in the shadows are. I want to hear somebody asking them why.

They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are but they're never the ones to fight or to die.

And there are lives in the balance. There are people under fire.

There are children at the cannons and there is blood on the wire."

- Jackson Browne, 1986

Did you notice the date? That's right, the song "Lives In the Balance" was written in 1986. Not much has changed since 1986, has it?

Is it just coincidence that the lyric is so relevant today as we watch our television screens erupt in violence in Cairo, Libya, Syria, and wonder - will we send our troops again, to fight another war for people who refuse to govern themselves? Have we learned nothing?

Can we dispute that history will repeat itself until there is a conscious change in the attitude of the policy makers. According to the Department of Defense statistics, over 6000 men and women have died fighting in the middle east since 2003. How many more have to die? And I wonder...are we fighting for our freedom or for the price of a barrel of oil?

© 2012 Linda Crist

Watch the video, hear the words, feel the concern


Submit a Comment

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi izettl ! Thanks for reading and for the kind remarks too. It is interesting. I'm starting to listen back to some older music and am finding more of the same. I remember a song back in the 60's, (either Joan Baez or Bob Dylan I think) and the lyric said "Oh the times they are a'changing". Maybe that one wasn't so true. lol Thanks again!

  • izettl profile image

    Laura Izett 

    6 years ago from The Great Northwest

    Great and inspirational. It's interesting how some of what is said through the music reflects things going on today. And as the commenter above said...very clever indeed.

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thanks Mhatter99. Jackson Browne has a lot of music that makes similar statements to this. You should check youtube for some of his music. I'm glad you liked my lead in.

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 

    6 years ago from San Francisco

    What a clever lead in! Although I am familiar with Jackson Browne, there was just so much music in SF; much more than there is now.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    6 years ago from Central Florida

    I think that'll only happen with traffic. I don't know. Can you look for it, or does it not show? So many of HP's recent changes are resulting in annoyances, such as having to sign in every few minutes when you've signed in for 48 hours. Or followers being inadvertently dropped when they haven't unfollowed you!

    Sheesh, make it pretty, OK. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    You are so right! But you know, the artists are still out there. They just don't get airtime. Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, they're all out there still touring and still speaking out. They're just singing to the choir of people like "us" who still listen. What a mess our world is in. I'll happily share this Mother with you. You give me hope.

    Can't you "un-idle" that hub?

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    6 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, after this hub I am convinced we are sisters. Sisters of the Mother planet called Kindred Spirits. You seem to write from the same soul that inspires me. I've written a hub, which has since been labeled "idle" by HP, called What Has Happened to Our Voice? It's about how the music of the sixties and seventies spoke out about oppression and what the government has placed upon us. Specifically, fighting others' wars.

    Music today doesn't do that. America needs a leader before we feel free to speak. Once upon a time ago, that leader was music and the artists who had a message to be heard!

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    You bet we are Bill. I have everything ever recorded by Folgelberg and Jackson Browne. I just asked bravewarrior if she was my sister from another mother. I think it is an appropriate question for you too. Are you my brother from another mother? Hey, kindred spirits works for me. They are much better than blood relatives. You are so right about the changes. Not good ones, are they?

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    6 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Two singers have had a profound effect on me over the years, and seemed to be singing just to me....Browne was one of them, and Fogelberg was the other. Two men who cared about life, nature, and social causes.

    Has anything changed since 1986? yes, as a society we have become more greedy and more complacent. Kind of sad, isn't it?

    Great message here my friend; well done! We are kindred spirits you and I.


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