Why Does Youtube Play The Same Music Site Www.Reddit.Com Jackson Browne’s "These Days" – Simply a Masterpiece

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Jackson Browne’s "These Days" – Simply a Masterpiece

Singer/Songwriter Jackson Browne has penned a countless number of songs inspiring and influencing a generation of songwriters. On his For Everyman album, released in 1973, Jackson Browne closed side one (remember when albums had “sides?”) with this four minute, forty one second masterpiece. What is it about this song that has (literally) millions of YouTube visitors watching/listening to it almost forty years later?

There’s an old expression about good songwriting: “All you need is three chords and the truth”. And while this statement may over-simply the songwriting process this cliché, like many others, is grounded in some truth. A look at the chord structure of “These Days” reveals pure simplicity. Browne plays the song with his guitar capo placed at the second fret and employs a chord progression of: C, C/B (or a C chord with a B note in the bass of the chord,) A minor, G and F. This progression is repeated four times in the introduction of the song and continues throughout the first half of the verse before Browne moves to the F chord leading to the C and then G chords to help resolve the progression. The song then returns to the original progression of C, C/B, Am, G and F.

Simple, right? Yes, it is very simple. As Jackson Browne states in several YouTube performances he wrote “These Days” when he was sixteen years old. Of course given the natural and basic chord progression, this is easy to believe. These chords are among the first we learn when we take on the challenge of learning to play the guitar. Given the fact one of the chords, the C/B is essentially a C chord with the bass (or root) note dropped down a half of a step to a B note “These Days” employs four chords. Pretty darn close to the cliché of “three chords and the truth…”

What makes this song so timeless is this simple chord progression placed against an equally simple melody. However this simplicity gives way to brilliance when the lyrics begin. Especially in hindsight knowing Browne wrote this song at the age of sixteen. The lyrics open: “Well I’ve been out walking. I don’t do that much talking these days. These days. These days I seem to think a lot about the things that I forgot to do for you. And all the times I had the chance to.”

Of course anybody can relate to this opening line. Is Browne talking to a lover? A parent? A friend? The point is, it doesn’t much matter. What makes this song so “universal” is the fact Jackson Browne could be referring to any of these people. And as listeners we immediately hear this opening line and think to ourselves “I could have done better with…” or “I should have known better…I owe an apology…” In other words, we are not even through the first verse and the songwriter has us hooked with a simple chord structure, a simple melody and then hammers us with some heavy “truth”.

As the lyrics continue we learn Jackson may be referring to a lover (although the second verse can also be thoughts completely independent of the first verse): “And I had a lover. It’s so hard to risk another, these days. These days…” Then Browne turns his attention to his career (or even simply his life): “Now if I seem to be afraid to live a life that I have made in song…Well it’s just that I’ve been losing so long.” Pretty heavy line from a sixteen year old (who would later be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)

Jackson Browne does offer up some hope in the final verse: “I’ll keep on moving. Things are bound to be improving these days. One of these days…” before closing the song with a plea: “Don’t confront me with my failures, I have not forgotten them.”

What makes “These Days” even more special is the fact Browne only requires his own acoustic guitar accompaniment. No bells. No whistles. No slick studio techniques or “hooks” or production magic. A very simple chord progression, simple but memorable melody and lyrics written by a sixteen year old that just as easily could have been written by a sixty year old looking back at their life.

Grab a hold of the For Everyman album and listen to the original version of this song. Then visit YouTube and watch a couple of the versions. It won’t take long to realize how brilliant this simple piece of music really is.

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