On December 1, Jackson Browne - backed by folk-rockers Dawes - performed a short acoustic set at the Occupy Wall Street protest in Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, where he premiered a new song inspired by the movement.
The impromptu concert was not the first foray into social activism for Browne, who has long used his celebrity and influence to raise awareness about causes of importance to him. In 1979, the singer founded Musicians United for Safe Energy with Bonnie Raitt to bring awareness to the anti-nuclear movement and later championed the production of several compilation albums in conjunction with Amnesty International to raise money for refugee camps in Darfur. In April 2008, the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association named Browne as its "Environmentalist of the Year," where he was praised for his efforts to make his tours more "green."
Still, when speaking to Rolling Stone after the performance, Browne said, "It's really hard to write a song about issues."
When asked about the Occupy-inspired tune he unveiled earlier in the day, Browne said: "Somebody asked me the name of that song, and I thought, well, I'm actually not sure what the title is. Maybe 'Which Side Are You On?' That's, of course, the title of an old Civil Rights marching song that I grew up singing when I was 16, 17 years old."
Title or no title, the work-in-progress style of Browne's performance didn't seem to matter to those in attendance at Zuccotti Park, where he and his song received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic reception from protesters."For me, it's such a relief to see people in the streets, not only here but everywhere in America," Browne said. "I used to see France get shutdown by unions and students who would bring the country to a halt just to address their concerns and I would wonder what it was going to take to bring that kind of pressure to bear in the United States - and I think what we're seeing is just the beginning of that."