Tanglewood concert brings Jackson Browne back to his activist roots

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LENOX >> Singer/songwriter Jackson Browne is also a longtime activist, supporting a host of national causes, as most of his fans know.

What they may not know is that the roots of this activism emanated, in part, from one of his earliest shows at Tanglewood.

"To tell the truth, Tanglewood was a place where some of my earliest interest in environmental causes was born," he said. "I opened for America here in, I think, 1971. And somebody from the Clamshell Alliance handed me a note backstage. It was about what was going on with the environment in New England and it got me interested."

Browne, 68, will be performing at Tanglewood at 7 p.m. Tuesday with his band.

Browne explained that growing up in the 1960s in California was an exciting era for anyone interested in the major issues of the time.

"Before the environmental movement, there was the Civil Rights movement," he said. "I went to a high school in he mid-1960s that was very mixed, with blacks, Latinos and gypsies. It was a very integrated school."

Browne later transferred to an all-white high school when his family relocated, "and I have to say, it was very different. I missed my black friends, my Hispanic friends. It was a very different atmosphere. To me, it was noticeable."

Browne was born in Germany, and he and his family moved to California when he was three years old.

The musical aspect of his life, he said, began almost when he could walk.

"Growing up, my life was totally surrounded, total SurroundSound, by music," he said. "My dad was a piano player. I remember having parties at our house, and a guitar would be passed around, and people would be singing."

Browne was drawn to folk-singing when he was in his early teens and remembers seeing Bob Dylan on television when he was 13 or 14.

"I don't remember what show it was, but I was watching it, and, wow, Bob Dylan popped onto the screen," said Browne with a laugh. "I didn't know who he was then, but my dad did. He said, 'This guy is the real deal.' And man, he was."

Browne started singing and playing music a year or so later.

"I hung around with kids a little older than I was," he said. "My sister [Roberta] was two years older than me, and she and her friends were very much into folk.

"But music in those days was all mixed together," said Browne. "Folk, blues, jazz, you listened to everything then."

The principal influence in his early life, musically, said Browne, was his father Clyde.

"I remember my dad brought me to a club to see Lightnin' Hopkins," he said. "I was just 14, but he got me in. He loved a singer named Barbara Dane. She sang and played guitar and had a beautiful voice. We went to see her a few times, too. That was a great experience for me.

"I think the interesting thing about music now," said Browne, "is that the casserole has been chopped up. Now, you can listen to any genre, and only that genre. You don't have to listen to anything you aren't interested in. It can be a dividing thing."

The tour on which he is presently a part, said Browne, began a few months ago — sort of.

"Ah, I've been touring for a couple of years straight," he said. "This tour technically started in May, but I've been going on an off for two years.

"It's always good to come back to Tanglewood," he said. "It's a great place to play, with great acoustics. We always have fun."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251

IN CONCERT

Who: Singer/songwriter Jackson Browne

What: Tanglewood Popular Artists Series

When: Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Where: Koussevitzky Shed, West Street (Route 183), Lenox

Tickets: $99-$27 (lawn)

How: 888-266-1200; tanglewood.org; Tanglewood Main Gate box office — West Street


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