Jackson Browne’s ‘For a Dancer’ – Do We Really Need to Know the Meaning?
I have to admit that it is (almost) fun to research material online and constantly discover how many different (and conflicting) facts there are on any given topic. Of course, it can also be a little worrying if someone is researching something where misinformation can cause harm (eg drugs or medical treatment, etc.), as those who post false “facts” about the meanings behind certain popular songs, will not cause much harm or change the rotation of the earth, we will forgive these transgressions. However, from a songwriter’s perspective, the question must be asked: do we really NEED to know the original “meaning” behind a song?
Jackson Browne’s “For a Dancer” first appeared on the 1974 platinum album Late For The Sky and has caused online fans to debate whether the song was the result of Brown’s wife’s suicide (which actually happened after the song was released). or the death of his friend Adam (who inspired “Adam’s Song” on Jackson’s 1972 debut album) among other theories. This blending of fact and fiction really begs the question: Why is it important to know the actual meaning behind a song? Especially when it’s clear, given the online posts related to this song, “For a Dancer” had different meanings to many different people, regardless of what prompted Brown to write this song.
One fan wrote about their father (whom they called their ‘best friend’) passing away three years ago and talked about how hard that loss was. The father was a big fan of Jackson Browne. Recently, the writer was with their dying uncle, left the bed and suddenly played “For a Dancer” by Jackson Browne. The uncle died a few hours later, and the fan believes their father “released this song” (above) to help cope with the loss of the uncle.
Another online author dedicated “About a Dancer” to their mother and friend who had recently passed away. Ballerina wrote how she feels about the song and wants to keep it in her head until she dies. Another wrote: “My dad and ex (plus dog, cat, horse and uncle) left this crazy planet this past year. This song speaks to my heart. Finally, another fan posted: “My dad passed away ten years ago. He has LOVED this song since I was a little kid. They released him at his funeral. Whenever I hear it, I remember the good things about it.”
Regardless of what really drove Jackson Browne to write “For a Dancer,” the song is among Brown’s best work. The four-minute-and-forty-two-second track was the sixth track on the Grammy-nominated Late For the Sky album and is a must-listen for any music fan. And our suggestion is that you listen, enjoy and place and give your OWN meaning to the song. That’s all that really matters.
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