That Girl Could Sing

Album: Hold Out (1980)
Charted: 22
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Songfacts®:

  • In this song, Jackson Browne recalls a time with an ex who left a strong impression on him. She wasn't much good at stickin' around, but she could sing.

    For years, Browne wouldn't say who it was about, but admitted it was a real person. He'd been linked to some ladies who certainly can sing, including Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, and Nico, but he later revealed that this girl was Valerie Carter, a singer-songwriter who recorded as a solo artist and often collaborated with luminaries in the Los Angeles area, including Linda Ronstadt, Don Henley, and Lowell George of Little Feat. She and Browne had both a personal and professional relationship: She co-wrote his 1977 song "Love Needs a Heart," and he played on her album Just a Stone's Throw Away that year.

    After she died of a heart attack in 2017 at 64, Browne started talking about her when he performed this song live. At a show in Vancouver, he said: "She was a great songwriter, a fantastic singer, and a great beauty. I wrote this song for her at a time when I was really out of my mind about her. This song helped me get over it."
  • Much of the Hold Out album deals with how Browne is always finding ways to torpedo his love life in favor of his career. He spoke about the song in a Rolling Stone interview: "Here I was, someone who didn't believe in love but in my own personal freedom, my own personal search - and I found myself drawn to somebody who was free. So what did I do? I immediately became the person I didn't want to be. I wanted to possess that woman. It was a complete turnaround from what I'd said the week before.

    Then at the point at which I made my peace with that - saying to myself, I guess the sanest thing she could have done was to leave, to disappear without explaining - I found myself out on the street again."
  • This was the second single from Jackson Browne's sixth album, Hold Out, following "Boulevard."

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