Browne was born October 9, 1948, in Heidelberg, Germany, where his father Clyde Jack Browne, an American serviceman, was stationed for his job assignment with the Stars and Stripes newspaper. Browne's mother, Beatrice Amanda (née Dahl), was a Minnesota native of Norwegian ancestry. Browne has three siblings. Roberta "Berbie" Browne was born in 1946 in Nuremberg, Germany; and Edward Severin Browne was born in 1949 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. His younger sister, Gracie Browne, was born a number of years later. At the age of three, Browne and his family moved to his grandfather's house, Abbey San Encino, in the Highland Park district of Los Angeles. In his teens, he began singing folk songs in local venues such as the Ash Grove and The Troubador Club. He attended Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton, California, graduating in 1966.
Clyde Jackson Browne (born October 9, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter and musician who has sold over 18 million albums in the United States. Coming to prominence in the 1970s, Browne has written and recorded songs such as "These Days", "The Pretender", "Running on Empty", "Lawyers in Love", "Doctor My Eyes", "Take It Easy", "For a Rocker", and "Somebody's Baby". In 2004, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, and given an honorary doctorate of music by Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked him as 37th in its list of the "100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time".
After graduating in 1966, Browne joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, performing at the Golden Bear (Huntington Beach, California) where they opened for The Lovin' Spoonful. The band later recorded a number of Browne's songs, including "These Days", "Holding", and "Shadow Dream Song". He also spent a short time in his friend Pamela Polland's band, Gentle Soul. Browne left the Dirt Band after a few months and moved to Greenwich Village, New York, where he became a staff writer for Elektra Records' publishing company, Nina Music, before his eighteenth birthday. He reported on musical events in New York City with his friends Greg Copeland and Adam Saylor. He spent the remainder of 1967 and 1968 in Greenwich Village, where he backed Tim Buckley and singer Nico of the Velvet Underground. In 1967, Browne and Nico were romantically linked and he became a significant contributor to her debut album, Chelsea Girl, writing and playing guitar on several of the songs (including "These Days"). In 1968, following his breakup with Nico, Browne returned to Los Angeles, where he formed a folk band with Ned Doheny and Jack Wilce, and first met Glenn Frey.
Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1, was released in 2005 on Inside Recordings. The album consists of live recordings of 11 previously released tracks including "The Birds of St. Marks", a song written in 1967, that appears on his 2014 album, Standing in the Breach. Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1 was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2007 in the category of Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album. A live follow-up album, Solo Acoustic, Vol. 2, was released on March 4, 2008.
In 1971, Browne signed with his manager David Geffen's Asylum Records and released Jackson Browne (1972) produced and engineered by Richard Orshoff, which included the piano-driven "Doctor My Eyes", which entered the Top Ten in the US singles chart. "Rock Me on the Water", from the same album, also gained considerable radio airplay, while "Jamaica Say You Will" and "Song for Adam" (written about his friend Adam Saylor's death) helped establish Browne's reputation. Touring to promote the album, he shared the bill with Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell.
Browne has been married twice and has two children. His first wife was actress and model Phyllis Major. The two began their relationship around 1971. Their son, model and actor Ethan Zane Browne, was born in 1973 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and grew up in Los Angeles. Jackson and six-month-old Ethan appeared together on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in May 1974. Ethan Browne has worked as a model and had small parts in two movies, Raising Helen and Hackers. Jackson Browne and Phyllis Major married in late 1975. Major died by suicide by consuming an overdose of barbiturates a few months later, in March 1976, at the age of 30.
When touring in 1975, Browne was accompanied by his wife Phyllis and one-year-old son Ethan. Browne also added keyboardist Wayne Cook to the tour. They toured in a converted Greyhound Bus. In the autumn of 1975, Browne performed shows with the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, and Toots and the Maytals.
In spring of 1978, Browne appeared at the site of the Barnwell, South Carolina, nuclear reprocessing plant to perform a free concert the night before a civil disobedience action; he did not participate in the action. In June 1978 he performed on the grounds of the Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant construction site in New Hampshire for 20,000 opponents of the reactor.
Browne was active in the anti-nuclear movement in the United States, and founded MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) with Bonnie Raitt and John Hall in 1979. He was also an active member of the Abalone Alliance and the Alliance for Survival. According to environmental activist Ed Begley Jr., "He's got this big wind turbine, and his ranch is completely off the [power] grid", Begley said. "He's done all of it himself."
Soon after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, during March 1979, Browne joined with several musician friends to found the antinuclear organization Musicians United for Safe Energy. He was arrested protesting against the Diablo Canyon Power Plant near San Luis Obispo. His next album, Hold Out (1980), was commercially successful and his only number 1 record on the U.S. pop albums chart. The album generated "Boulevard". In 1982, he released the single "Somebody's Baby" from the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack, which became his biggest hit, peaking at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. The 1983 Lawyers in Love followed, signaling a discernible change from the personal to the political in his lyrics. In 1985, he sang a duet with Clarence Clemons in a song called "You're a Friend of Mine".
In January 1981 Browne married Australian model Lynne Sweeney. Their son, Ryan Browne, born on January 28, 1982, has been a bass player and singer in the band Sonny and the Sunsets since 2007. Browne and Lynne Sweeney were divorced in 1983, when he began dating actress Daryl Hannah. The relationship ended in 1992 amid allegations that Browne was physically abusive to her. He has been with artist and environmental activist Dianna Cohen, a cofounding member of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, since the mid-1990s.
Browne's studio album, Time the Conqueror, was released September 23, 2008, by Inside Recordings. The album reached the Billboard 200 album chart at #20, which was his first top-20 record since releasing Lawyers in Love in 1983. In addition, the album peaked at #2 on the Billboard Independent Album chart.
Browne also performed alongside Roy Orbison in A Black and White Night in 1988 along with Bruce Springsteen, k.d. lang, and many others. The special originally aired on Cinemax.
Browne performed live and recorded The Beatles song medley "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight" in 1991 with Jennifer Warnes for the charity album For Our Children to benefit the Pediatrics AIDS Foundation. Browne and Warnes again performed it live for the Tucson, AZ, benefit concert.
Browne wrote and recorded the song "The Rebel Jesus" with the Chieftains, which appeared on their 1991 Christmas album The Bells of Dublin. In 1993, four years after his previous album, Browne returned with I'm Alive, a critically acclaimed album with a more personal style that did not have any successful singles but still sold respectably – indeed, the ninth track from the album, "Sky Blue and Black", was used during the pilot episode of the situation comedy Friends. In 1994, Browne collaborated with Kathy Mattea to contribute "Rock Me on the Water" to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country produced by the Red Hot Organization.
Browne performed and sang the role of the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True, a 1995 musical performance for charity alongside Roger Daltrey, Natalie Cole, Nathan Lane, and other stars. The celebrity cast performed a reader's theatre and songs styled performance of the MGM film The Wizard of Oz at the Lincoln Center as a benefit for the Children's Defense Fund. VHS and CD recordings were released of the concert in 1996 by Rhino Records.
During 1995, he performed in The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True, a musical performance of the popular story at Lincoln Center to benefit the Children's Defense Fund. The performance was originally broadcast on Turner Network Television, and issued on CD and video in 1996. He sang a duet with Jann Arden, "Unloved", on her 1995 album Living Under June. Browne's own album, Looking East (1996), was released soon after, but was not as successful commercially.
A liberal Democrat, Browne appeared in several rallies for presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 2000, singing "I Am a Patriot" and other songs. He participated in the Vote for Change tour during October 2004, playing a series of concerts in American swing states. These concerts were organized by MoveOn.org to mobilize people to vote for John Kerry in the presidential election. Browne appeared with Bonnie Raitt and Keb' Mo', and once with Bruce Springsteen. During late 2006, Browne performed with Michael Stanley and J. D. Souther at a fundraiser for Democratic candidates in Ohio. For the 2008 presidential election, he endorsed John Edwards for the Democratic presidential nomination and performed at some of Edwards' appearances. After Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination, Browne endorsed him. Browne also performed briefly at the Occupy Wall Street presence at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan on December 1, 2011, to show his support for their cause. In the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries, Browne endorsed United States senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Browne released his album The Naked Ride Home in 2002, with a performance on Austin City Limits, featuring the recording with older familiar songs.
In 2002, Browne received the John Steinbeck Award, given to artists who exemplify the environmental and social values that Steinbeck believed in.
In 2004, Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bruce Springsteen gave the induction speech, commenting to Browne that although the Eagles were inducted first, he said, "You wrote the songs they wished they had written". Browne had written quite a few hit songs that many artists, including the Eagles, had recorded over the span of his career. The previous year, three of Browne's albums – For Everyman, Late for the Sky, and The Pretender – had been selected by Rolling Stone magazine as among its choices for the 500 best albums of all time.
In 2004, Browne was named an honorary Doctor of Music by Occidental College in Los Angeles for "a remarkable musical career that has successfully combined an intensely personal artistry with a broader vision of social justice." For "promoting peace and justice through his music and his unrelenting support for that which promotes nonviolent solutions to problems both nationally and internationally", Browne received the Courage of Conscience Awards from The Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts.
On March 14, 2004, Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Bruce Springsteen. On June 7, 2007, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In 2007, Browne was awarded the Chapin-World Hunger Year Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award.
Browne covered John Lennon's "Oh My Love" to benefit Amnesty International's campaign to alleviate the crisis in Darfur. The song appears on the album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur, which was released on June 12, 2007, and features many other artists performing other John Lennon covers, such as R.E.M., Jack Johnson, U2, Avril Lavigne, Green Day, and The Black Eyed Peas.
In 2008, Browne contributed to the album Songs for Tibet, an initiative to support Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, and to publicize the human rights situation in Tibet. The album was issued on August 5 via iTunes and on August 19 in music stores around the world.
In 2008, Browne received the NARM Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award.
In April 2008, the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association gave Browne the honor of "Environmentalist of the Year".
On May 31, 2008, Jackson Browne performed at the Artist for the Arts Foundation benefit at Barnum Hall, Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica, California. Performing live, alongside Heart, Venice ("Crazy on You") and over 70 members of the Santa Monica High School (SaMoHi) Orchestra and Girls Choir ("Bohemian Rhapsody"), the benefit helped to provide funds for the continuation of music education in public schools. Browne again performed there with Heart and other musician guest stars in 2009.
During August 2008, Browne sued John McCain, the Ohio Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee for using his 1977 hit, "Running on Empty", in an attack advertisement against Barack Obama without his permission. In July 2009, the matter was settled under an undisclosed financial agreement with an apology from the McCain campaign and other parties.
During August 2008, he appeared on the ALMA Awards in a taped interview honoring Trailblazer Award recipient and long-time friend, Linda Ronstadt.
In September 2009, Jackson joined artists such as Fred Tackett (Little Feat), Inara George (Bird and the Bee) and others in supporting orphans, foster and homeless children through Safety Harbor Kids Holiday Collection with proceeds going to help educate at risk youth.
Browne received the Duke LEAF Award for Lifetime Environmental Achievement in the Fine Arts in 2010 for his environmental activism and efforts to make his tours more "green".
In 2010, he recorded a version of "Waterloo Sunset" with Ray Davies for the latter's collaborations album, See My Friends.
In October 2010, Browne performed at both days of the 24th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert, a yearly fundraiser established by Neil Young. The Bridge School assists children with severe physical impairments and complex communication needs. Browne also appeared at the 2010 NAMM Conference in Anaheim, California with Yoko Ono and Quincy Jones in support of the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus.
In January 2011, Browne won the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards in the Best Live Performance Album category for Love Is Strange: En Vivo Con Tino, performed by himself and David Lindley.
On March 10, 2011, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Alice Cooper, and others performed a benefit concert in Tucson, Arizona, benefiting The Fund For Civility, Respect, and Understanding, a foundation that raises awareness about and provides medical prevention and treatment services to people with mental disorders. The concert also benefited victims of the January 8, 2011 shootings in Tucson.
Save Our Shores (SOS), an ocean-advocacy group in California, honored Browne with their Ocean Hero Award on February 23, 2011. SOS and mayor of Santa Cruz, California, Ryan Coonerty, proclaimed the date "Jackson Browne Day" in the City of Santa Cruz to honor Browne's social, environmental and antiplastic activism, and as a founding member of Plastic Pollution and an initiator of the REFUSE Disposable Plastics Campaign.
In 2012, he joined artists such as David Crosby and Pete Seeger in supporting Ben Cohen's Stamp Stampede campaign to legally stamp messages such as "Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians" on American currency in order to build a movement to amend the constitution and get big money out of politics.
In April 2012, Browne performed for Artists for the Arts benefit along with Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket and the band Venice. The benefit was to keep arts and music in public schools funded and raised over $100,000. This was Browne's fifth appearance out of the nine annual shows that have taken place. The band Venice was the main act and performed all supporting music for the guest artists along with a student orchestra and choir from the Santa Monica High and Malibu High school districts. The concert, held at Barnum Hall, was a sold-out event.
On July 23, 2013, Browne performed with the Kings of Leon and the Flaming Lips in Oklahoma City for Rock for Oklahoma, a benefit concert for Oklahoma tornado victims.
In November 2013, Browne performed with students from School of Rock West LA and Burbank in a benefit concert for the Rock School Scholarship Fund, at the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood. His set of hits including "Somebody's Baby," "Doctor My Eyes," and "Take It Easy" were all performed with students aged 13 – 17 accompanying him. Money raised went toward scholarships for children who want to attend any rock school in the USA but whose parents do not have the financial means.
On April 1, 2014, a 23-song, two-disc set titled Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne was released. The album features covers of Browne's songs by such artists as Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Lyle Lovett and Bonnie Raitt.
On October 7, 2014, Browne's 14th studio album, titled Standing in the Breach, was released.
On October 25, 2014, Browne performed at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, California, in a benefit concert for Sanctuary Centers of Santa Barbara, a nonprofit providing mental health & co-occurring disorders treatment services. Jessie Bridges, Jeff Bridges and David Crosby also performed at this benefit. On August 11, 2015, he performed another benefit concert for Sanctuary Centers at the Santa Barbara Bowl.
In January 2016, Browne endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in the 2016 United States presidential election.
On February 15, 2016, at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards, Browne and the Eagles performed "Take It Easy" in honor of Glenn Frey, who had died the month before.
In 2018, Browne received the Gandhi Peace Award from the organization Promoting Enduring Peace. He is the first Artist to receive the award.
On March 24, 2020, Browne announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 amidst the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.