Fountain of Sorrow

"Fountain of Sorrow" is a song written and performed by American singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. Released as the second single from his 1974 album Late for the Sky, at 6:42, it was the longest song on the album, and the longest song Browne had yet released ("For Everyman" was approximately 6:20). Two minutes were removed from the single release of "Fountain of Sorrow", but the song still failed to chart on Billboard's Hot 100.[1][2][3][4]

"Fountain of Sorrow"
1975 45 Single Label Jackson Browne Fountain of Sorrow Asylum Records.jpg
7-inch DJ promotional mono single label
Single by Jackson Browne
from the album Late for the Sky
B-side"The Late Show"
Length4:37 – 7" version; 6:42 – album version
LabelAsylum Records
Songwriter(s)Jackson Browne
Producer(s)Jackson Browne, Al Schmitt
Jackson Browne singles chronology
"Walking Slow"
"Fountain of Sorrow"
"Here Come Those Tears Again"


The song is generally assumed to have been inspired by Browne's brief relationship with Joni Mitchell.


Many critics have written of the relationship song (and the album it is from) as reflecting a larger, general zeitgeist for the post-Vietnam War, post-Nixon era Baby boomer audience, particularly the notable "You've known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight" line in the chorus. "The fondly reflective 'Fountain of Sorrow,' is typical of Browne's ability to make personal experience seem universal," said Gil Asakawa, in Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide.[5] Indeed, Joan Baez immediately recorded her own version of the song for her 1975 solo album, Diamonds & Rust, placing it directly in the song listing after her title track, a remembrance song of her relationship with Bob Dylan in the 1960s and 1970s.[6]

In his 1974 Rolling Stone review of Late for the Sky, Stephen Holden wrote that the song "develops parallel themes of sex and nothingness, fantasy and realism, as Browne, looking at the photograph of a former lover, recalls:"

When you see through love's illusion, there lies the danger
And your perfect lover just looks like a perfect fool
So you go running off in search of a perfect stranger
While the loneliness seems to spring from your life
Like a fountain from a pool...

"In the chorus, highly romanticized sexuality becomes a 'fountain of sorrow, fountain of light.' Later in the album the water images are developed into a larger metaphor for death and rebirth," wrote Holden.[7]

Robert Christgau called the song the best on the album: "I admit that the longest is also the best, an intricate extended metaphor called 'Fountain of Sorrow.'"[8]

In his 2008 book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, Tom Moon wrote that Browne's lost seeker's "inquiry leads him into the minefields of memory" on "Fountain of Sorrow," in which "a photograph opens the floodgates".

Other versionsEdit

A live solo version by Browne at the piano is available on his 2005 release Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1.


  1. ^ Jackson Browne Chart History. Billboard.
  2. ^ Jackson Browne Awards.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel. Billboard Hot 100 Charts – The Seventies. Wisconsin: Record Research, 1990.
  4. ^ Paris, Russ. JACKSON BROWNE COMPLETE DISCOGRAPHY. Archived August 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Asakawa, Gil. Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. 1996
  6. ^ "Fountain of Sorrows" Versions Page
  7. ^ Holden, Stephen. Rolling Stone, Late for the Sky Review November 7, 1974.
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert., Late for the Sky Review.

External linksEdit