Running on Empty (song)
"Running on Empty" is a song written and performed by American singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. It is the title track to his 1977 live album of the same name, recorded at a concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, on August 27, 1977. A number 11 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 when it was released as a single, it spent seventeen weeks on the chart after debuting on February 11, 1978 at position 72. Rolling Stone ranked it at number 496 on its list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" and it is one of Browne's signature songs. "Running on Empty" was most popular in Canada, where it spent two weeks at number four.
|"Running on Empty"|
|Single by Jackson Browne|
|from the album Running on Empty|
|B-side||"Nothing But Time"|
|Recorded||August 27, 1977
Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland
4:49 (7" version)
|Jackson Browne singles chronology|
|Running on Empty track listing|
The song was written while Browne was driving to the studio each day to make The Pretender, according to Rolling Stone magazine: "I was always driving around with no gas in the car," Browne is quoted. "I just never bothered to fill up the tank because — how far was it anyway? Just a few blocks."
The song may be meant to describe the rigors of a musician's day-to-day life on the road, and its effect on his life as a whole, in connection with the themes of much of the album, but the lyric is more generally applicable, as well:
Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels —
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields.
In '65 I was seventeen and running up 101
I don't know where I'm running now, I'm just running on ...
The song starts off with an immediate, propulsive backbeat, with the melody carried by piano and throughout laced by David Lindley's distinctive lap steel guitar work. Browne receives vocal back up from Rosemary Butler and Doug Haywood.
The lyric's ages and years match up with Browne's:
In '69 I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don't know when that road turned onto the road I'm on.
You know I don't even know what I'm hoping to find ...
Running into the sun, but I'm running behind.
With its number 11 peak on the Hot 100 in spring 1978, "Running on Empty" was Browne's third-biggest hit single in his career (trailing only "Doctor My Eyes" and "Somebody's Baby"), and subsequently became his most-played song on classic rock radio formats. It became a staple of Browne's concerts, and whenever Bruce Springsteen has guested at such shows, they have shared vocals on "Running on Empty".
This song appeared in the 1994 film Forrest Gump, famously featured in the scene where Forrest was running across the United States.
In August 2008, Browne sued presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, the Ohio Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee for unauthorized use of "Running on Empty" in a television commercial mocking presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama's energy policy. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum in July 2009, with the McCain campaign, the Ohio Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee issuing a joint apology for using the song. Browne said, "I'm really happy that we got this statement from them. It's great to have it affirmed that these [copyright and usage] laws stand. I've had an idea of how my songs are protected and how money is collected and how making a living as a musician works for my whole career, and it's great to have it affirmed and to know that we're absolutely right in standing up to them."
The recording appeared in a 2008 episode of the CBS series Swingtown, though it created something of an anachronism, as the episode was set during the summer of 1976, a year before the release of Browne's Running on Empty album, on which the song originally appeared.
- Paris, Russ. JACKSON BROWNE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- Billboard.com Jackson Browne Chart History. Accessed July 10, 2012.
- Whitburn, Joel. Billboard Hot 100 Charts - The Seventies. Wisconsin: Record Research, 1990.
- Rolling Stone. "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
- Jackson Browne: Running On Empty : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone
- "Jackson Browne sues Sen. John McCain for unauthorized use of 'Running on Empty'". Los Angeles Times. 2008-08-15. Archived from the original on August 18, 2008.
- "Jackson Browne settles with GOP over song use". Associated Press. MSNBC. Retrieved 24 August 2010.
- Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X