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Jackson Browne’s Desperate Cry For Attention

While driving to get a haircut with T2 yesterday, I was listening to the radio. The DJ on the stationtook off on a tangent about Jackson Browne and that, of course, led to him talking about the McCain ad over which Browne sued the campaign, the RNC and the Republican Party of Ohio.

First, the campaign didn’t make the ad, and neither did the RNC. Browne clearly needs to stick to songwriting because he’s no lawyer (and apparently, neither are his lawyers). Suing McCain and the RNC for an OH GOP ad is like suing McDonald’s because you got a bad cheeseburger at Wendy’s – based on the theory that they all make hamburgers and therefore share in the liability.

All three of these groups are separate legal entities. Suing one for the actions of the other is not legally supportable unless you can prove collusion, which is unlikely (and I’m not even sure that would support anything other than an FEC violation).

Second, Browne’s suit is clearly politically motivated. You don’t sue organizations that had nothing to do with the ad unless you’re trying to make a political point. Browne could have sued the Ohio GOP, but he knew that wouldn’t make news. So they named the RNC and McCain as well. This is about politics and the alleged infringement is BS.

Third, very telling about Browne’s suit is this passage:

The 59-year-old singer claims his reputation has already been damaged and is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

Browne released “Running on Empty” ‚Äî the song and an album by the same name ‚Äî in 1977. According to the lawsuit, the album has sold more than 7 million copies.

So Browne is suing over a song that’s 31 years old. He’s claiming $75,000 in damages. It seems likely to me that Browne’s sales as a result of this little publicity ploy should result in more sales of the album/song than he has seen in years otherwise.

This isn’t about a musician who was grievously injured by the misuse of one of his songs by a politician he does not support. It is much more likely that Browne suing McCain was more about getting his name in the paper and moving some units of an old song that was likely to remain largely forgotten otherwise.

Need further evidence that Browne’s political activism has hampered his sales, leading to his latest publicity outing? Try this from

With his first four albums, Browne built a loyal following that helped him break into the mainstream with 1976’s The Pretender. During the late ’70s and early ’80s, he was at the height of his popularity, as each of his albums charted in the Top Ten. Midway through the ’80s, Browne made a series of political protest records that caused his audience to gradually shrink…

Browne hasn’t released a new album in six years, instead pursuing “intimate (read: small), acoustic shows around the globe”.

Unable to draw an audience, and unable to sell his unique brand of burned out hippy protest albums, Browne is left with only one option: strike out in a ridiculously frivolous lawsuit at a campaign that has nothing to do with your claim in a desperate attempt to get attention.

Well, Jackson, you’ve succeeded.

Written by Michael Turk