Running On Empty

Album: Running on Empty (1977)
Charted: 11

Songfacts®:

  • Recorded onstage, backstage, in three different hotel rooms, and on a Continental Silver Eagle tour bus during a cross-country tour in 1977, the Running on Empty album is a paean to life on the road. The title track, along with "The Load-Out/Stay," was recorded live during a concert at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland on August 27, 1977. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Charles - Charlotte, NC
  • "Running On Empty" is a popular metaphor for being exhausted, but the phrase had a much more literal meaning for Browne when it came to him. Browne wrote it while he was driving back and forth to the studio each day to make his album The Pretender. He told Rolling Stone: "I was always driving around with no gas in the car, I just never bothered to fill up the tank because - how far was it anyway? Just a few blocks."
  • In August 2008, lifelong Democrat Jackson Browne filed a lawsuit against Republican presidential candidate John McCain, after the politician used a portion of this song in a presidential campaign TV ad without permission. Browne's lawyer Lawrence Iser said: "Not only have Senator McCain and his agents plainly infringed Mr. Browne's copyright in 'Running on Empty,' but the Federal Courts have long held that the unauthorized use of a famous singer's voice in a commercial constitutes a false endorsement and a violation of the singer's right of publicity."

    While McCain had every right to play the song at campaign rallies, synching it up to video requires special permission, which is why songs used in commercials, movies and TV shows must be cleared.
  • Jackson Browne released four studio albums from 1972-1976 - a hectic pace, but a schedule that was typical for artists in the '70s. To catch a break while still honoring their obligations to their labels, acts would often put together a live album every now and then, which saved them the trouble of recording new songs.

    This was Browne's plan, except he wanted to include some new songs as well (a very prolific songwriter, he had lots of material). Stops on Browne's tour during the summer of 1977 were recorded for the album, and when they started compiling it, Browne and his crew decided that it sounded best with all new songs, and that "Running on Empty" would make a great title track. When the album was released, it was a landmark: The first live rock album with all new songs.
  • Running On Empty was so part of mainstream culture in America that in the sitcom Mork & Mindy, a framed copy of the LP cover hung on the wall in Mindy's apartment.

Comments: 30

  • Brian from OrangeWhile Valerie Carter was reportedly the inspiration behind "That Girl Could Sing" (and additionally Steve Winwood's "Valerie"), that amazing background vocalist on "Running On Empty" (according to liner notes) is the amazing Rosemary Butler.
  • Mike from Berkeley, CaThe court case mentioned above was won by Jackson Browne. According to Rolling Stone magazine: "...Browne won an undisclosed cash settlement and a public apology from McCain."
  • Mike from Berkeley, CaThe woman singing in the background of each chorus is Valerie Carter. Jackson Browne also recorded the song 'That Girl Could Sing', rumored to be about Valerie Carter. If you listen to 'Running On Empty', you can tell that she really could sing.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 6th 1977, Jackson Browne released his fifth album, 'Running On Empty'...
    The album consisted of live recordings made during his 1977 summer tour, as stated above it was the first major live rock album that was comprised of all new songs, not rehashed previously releases...
    On February 26th, 1978 the album reached #3* {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's Top 200 albums chart and two tracks made the Hot Top 100 Singles chart; "Running On Empty" {#11} and "Stay/Load Out" {#20}...
    * The two weeks the album was at #3, the #1 album was 'Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack' and at #2 was 'The Stranger' by Billy Joel.
  • Harold from Tamaqua, PaOn the album version, the beginning of the song has crowd noise and several songs are mentioned, including Norman Greenbaum's 'Spirit in the Sky' (the only song title I could make out clearly)
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Ny*** 'Looking into their eyes I see them running too' ***
    On February 5th 1978, "Running On Empty" by Jackson Browne entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #72; and on April 23rd it peaked at #11 (for 1 week) and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
    Was track one on the album of the same name; the album reached #3 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
    One other track from the album also made the Top 100, "Stay" b/w "The Load Out", it peaked at #20...
    Mr. Browne, born Clyde Jackson Browne, celebrated his 65th birthday four months ago on October 9th (2013).
  • Denver from Colunbia City, InGreat song and brings back a lot of memory's as a kid. Good cruising song.
  • Zak from Liverpool, United Kingdomthe years in the song match Jackson's real age! the lyrics "In '65 I was seventeen" and "in' 69 I was 21" are accurate as Browne was born in 1948. Because it is true, this 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
    Also, This song appeared in the 1994 film Forrest Gump, famously featured in the scene where Forrest was running across the United States.
  • Pat from Albuquerque, NmFWIW, the roadie in question in Rosie is apparently working the sound system, and some cute girl uses him to hook up with the drummer. So the roadie winds up with "Rosie Palm." If that isn't tribulation, I don't know what is.
  • John from Brisbane, AustraliaI was just watching a re-run of Mork and Mindy and saw the Running on Empty album cover on the wall next to the door as artwork. Someone correct me if I am wrong.
  • Liz from Smallville, KsThis song is fun to sing to...well at least for me. I love it!
  • Alex from Fresno, CaTo Jim and Shannon. You are both right. It wasnt on the soundtrack at first. Was re-released in 2001 and included the song. The problem was, in 2001 they only added 2 more songs. They still left all kinds of amazing songs off even the remastered soundtrack. "Freebird" and "All Along the Watchtower" being two examples. Should have been more than a two disc soundtrack in my opinion.
  • Calvin from Columbus, OhI'm not sure how this could be seen as a "feel-good" song. I have learned enough to realize that you wouldn't need to be on a geographical road to appreciate it, either. (I know the geographical road well enough to have seen it only that way for several years.) I'm one of those people that's all into the words. When I listen to this, I hear a large part of my life, and most of those I know.
  • Don from Marietta, GaThe only Jackson Browne song I like. Saw him in concert 2 years ago. His band looked like a rag-tag bunch. I'm guessing they were contracted from a studio. Don't know if Browne has his own band he uses consistently or not. But they all were good muscians. The bass player looked cool, a beatnik type, like he was straight off Haight/Ashbury in the 60's.
  • Michael from Las Vegas, NvThe song "Rosie" is not about a roadie (lowlie or otherwise but about self-gratifacation. Think of Rosie Palm and her five sisters next time you listen to this little dittie.
  • Michael from Las Vegas, Nvto Pat from Albuquerque; Rosie is not about a roadie (lowlie or otherwise). It's a clever little tribute to the art of self-pleasure. Think of Rosie Palm and her five sisters next time you listen to this song and all will be clear.
  • Nathan from From The Country Of, Canadafavourite song, right when i first heard the song i immediatly loved it. Wish it could be covered for todays popular airplay but then it would sound nowhere near as good.
  • Matthew from East Brunswick, NjThis was used in the Forrest Gump running sequence, at the very beginning of it. It then goes on to "You Can Go Your Way" and concludes with "Against the Wind".
  • Mike from Santa Barbara, CaThis is in my opinion Jackson Browne's best song ever. Not only does it talk about life on the road, but it also touches on beginning adulthood and not knowing what to do with your life.
  • Street Strategist from Hong Kong, Hong Kong"Running On Empty" is number 2 in the list called "Sounds at the Speed of Music: 50 Rock Anthems at 100 kph"
  • Scott from Columbus, OhLiving life for the day...no destination in sight, as we put our last dollar in the gas tank to keep moving...until we figure out we are running to or from.
    Divine motivation...a real feel good song!
  • Pat from Albuquerque, NmI saw Browne in concert when he toured just after this album was released; the live concert was excellent.

    Strangely enough, I wore out the LP years ago, and found the CD at Costco yesterday. Well worth listening to again. The entire album fits together as a story, from travelling across the country, the drugs, the tribulations of a lowly roadie ("Rosie") and the rest of the band, setting up and doing the concert to the end ("The Load Out/Stay").
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiait's allright , like Somebodys Baby better and Doctor my Eyes....
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaThis song is sooo good!!! Itz just so uplifting. Dare I say one of Jackson Brownes best? It deserves more comments.
  • Jim from Toledo, Ohit definitely is on the forest gump soundtrack
  • Kevin from Eugene, OrI remember hearing this song for the first time on KSAN radio out of SF CA. I was speachless trying to describe it to my brother. It came out when the political winds in the US were shifting right, which made it more poignant.
  • Ross from Independence, MoThis is #492 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
  • Shannon from Pittsburgh, PaThis song also appeared in 'Forrest Gump' when Forrest was running. For some reason its not on the soundtrack.
  • Jonathan from Natchitoches, LaAppeared in Season 1 Episode 12 of Cold Case on CBS. The name of the episode is "Glued."
  • Peter from Montrose, DcGreat song one of my favorites David Lindley is awesome on slide guitar, and Russ Kunkel rocks on drums.
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