David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 267: Jackson Browne (Love Needs A Heart)

July 12, 2023

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming with breaking news: Love needs a heart, or at least a healthy heart again.

I had several other songs queued up and ready to go for this week, when I learned that one of my oldest friends was having open-heart surgery yesterday. And in the usual way, a song starts going through my mind, a refrain that seems so true, even if the rest of the song may not fit. That song can only come from Jackson Browne.

Mark and I were at times attached at the hips in high school and in college. We shared many mutual interests, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, MASH, German food, and the singer-songwriter set. More importantly, we seemed to share the same infantile sense of humor. To this day, I know no one can make me laugh more deeply, more regularly than Mark, sometimes with just a look since I probably know the line swirling around his head.

When we weren't joking around, or quoting, incessantly, irritatingly, perhaps even inappropriately, MASH lines, we likely were harmonizing (or at least he was, as he had a better voice) to either Jackson Browne or Warren Zevon. "Mohammed's Radio" was our favorite. Mark was my Jackson, I was his Warren. Mark gladly went with me to Washington D.C. to see Zevon in concert; I was a shoe-in to go with Mark to see Jackson Browne in concert in Morgantown. Browne always seemed the more stable of the two (you can find pictures of Browne, Zevon and John Belushi hanging out in clubs, and you could be pretty damn sure, Jackson was the designated driver), and Mark also fit that, finding love, stability and a career much more quickly than I did.

One of the things Zevon admired about Browne was his heart. In Zevon's live version of "Werewolves Of London" from Stand In The Fire, he swapped out the werewolf famously "drinking a pina colada at Trader Vics/and his hair was perfect" with Browne whose "heart is perfect." Mark's heart is perfect. Or at least once was.

Mark and I have drifted apart as friends do post-college, but in the weird coincidences that can often define friendships, he first started having heart issues not long after I had my cardiac arrest in 2017. While my three stents seem to have done the trick, I didn't realize Mark's heart was still going "clunk, clunk," a half-joke he shared with me this week when announcing he was going to have this surgery.

So, for 48 hours now, I have been haunted by Jackson Browne's "Love Needs A Heart," off of Running On Empty. The whole song's meaning seems inappropriate for my expository version of love, thoughts, and prayers, but maybe not. When I speculated in Summer 2017 as to why I survived my cardiac event when others don't, I hypothesized, perhaps a little too cavalierly, that "my heart wasn't done being used yet." I think this week, as I help my wife recover from a second hip replacement, and now think of Mark in his crisis, Browne's verses, typical of the hearts of many men, sound even more alarming, a reminder that I need to use mine even more.

"Proud and alone, cold as a stone," Browne describes himself in the song, saying "I'm afraid to believe the things I feel." Somehow that rings true now that I am in my 60s and needing to accept the mortality limitations of many long friends and loved ones. Even then, I worry how fake bravado may lead me to "cry with the best . . . laugh with the rest, but . . . never sure when it's real."

While the main surgery is done, Mark is not out of the woods yet. For his wife, his kids, his extended family, all his friends, Mark "needs a heart trusting and blind." I am tempted to say he just needs his old heart back, but I guess that isn't good enough right now. I link below to a live version of Browne singing "Love Needs A Heart," conjuring up that Lawyers In Love tour, Jackson sitting center stage at the Morgantown Coliseum. Almost 6 years to the day, I came out of my coma and on the road to recovery to a Warren Zevon song. Here's praying a little of his Jackson can do the same for my Jackson.

Browne, Jackson. "Love Needs A Heart." Running On Empty. Asylum, 1977. Link here.

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See complete list here.