He was almost in the Eagles, and he was almost a solo star. His friends became very famous…Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Glenn Frey, and Don Henley. John David Souther may have just missed stardom, but he was very successful.
J.D. Souther was born in Detroit in 1945, and was raised in Texas. When he moved to California in the late ‘60’s, he met another Detroit native, Glenn Frey, and they formed a Country Rock duo called Longbranch Pennywhistle.
What? You don’t remember their 1969 album? It would probably be completely forgotten if it weren’t for the historical perspective it provides. As the Eagles formed in 1971, J.D. Souther was encouraged to join. They even worked on one of his songs, “How Long”, but J.D. thought the band already had enough guitarists & singers, and decided solo was the way to go.
His self-titled album came out in 1972, just like the Eagles’ first album. One of the albums was a hit, and one went to the cut-out bins. Souther wouldn’t release another solo album for four years; however, he soon found great success…as a songwriter.
Let’s look at some of the songs J.D. Souther helped write for these albums.
Here are the songs J.D. co-wrote (mostly with Don Henley & Glenn Frey):
”Doolin’-Dalton”, “Best Of My Love” (#1), “You Never Cry Like A Lover”, “James Dean”, “New Kid In Town” (#1), “Heartache Tonight” (#1), and “The Sad Cafe”. That’s three #1 singles, and they’re on some of the best-selling albums of all time.
Three decades later (2007), the Eagles released J.D. Souther’s “How Long” as a hit off their final studio album, Long Road Out Of Eden. The song won the Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group. It also was a hit on the Adult Contemporary charts.
Besides the Eagles, J.D. Souther helped with the success of one-time girlfriend, and lifetime friend, Linda Ronstadt.
Here are the songs J.D. Souther wrote that Linda Ronstadt recorded (including duets on which he sang):
”I Can Almost See It”, “Don’t Cry Now”, “The Fast One”, “Faithless Love” (duet), “Prisoner In Disguise” (duet), “Silver Blue” (duet), “Simple Man, Simple Dream”, “White Rhythm And Blues”, and “Hearts Against The Wind” (duet on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack).
Obviously, with the extreme popularity of Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles, J.D. Souther was earning an amazing living as a songwriter. He would see some success as a solo artist starting in 1976, but first…a band.
There was an attempt to form a “supergroup” by putting J.D. Souther, Chris Hillman (of The Byrds), and Richie Furay (of Poco) together as a band. It resulted in two albums (I bought), and some success. The albums reached #11 and #39 in 1974 & 1975, but the group split up after the second album. It was partly because they were put together by their label, rather than having come together naturally. Next were the solo albums.
I picked up the first three of these albums as they were released in 1976, 1979 and 1984, and then the fourth in 2011. The Black Rose album included several songs Souther had written for Ronstadt, plus more originals. As a young man, J.D. had been influenced by Jazz artists, so besides the Country Rock feel, there are touches of Jazz in some of the arrangements. It’s a good album, but only made it to #85 on the Top 200 chart.
J.D. Souther’s greatest solo success was in 1979. His single “You’re Only Lonely” went to #7 on the Top 100 chart, and spent multiple weeks at #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The You’re Only Lonely album peaked at #41, his best solo showing. It’s also his best album.
Between albums in 1981, James Taylor & J.D. Souther released the duet “Her Town Too”. It went to #11 on the Top 100 chart, and hit #5 on the AC chart. The song was written by the two singers, and guitarist Waddy Wachtel.
Neither of Souther’s next two albums, Home By Dawn and Natural History charted, but the latter one featured cool stripped-down versions of some of the songs he co-wrote with the Eagles. At this point, Souther dropped the periods from his initials, and became JD Souther.
You might have caught JD on TV. He had a significant role on season three of Thirty Something (1989-1990), and more recently was a recurring character in the country music show Nashville (2012-2017).
While not well known by the general pubic, JD Souther is famous with musicians and songwriters. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2013. John David Souther has had an impressive career…with maybe just the right amount of fame.
Extra: In case you’re not familiar with his recordings, here’s a recommended playlist of JD Souther songs you can stream. The first six songs are from You’re Only Lonely, and the next six are from Black Rose.
- You’re Only Lonely
- The Last In Love
- If You Don’t Want My Love
- Songs Of Love
- White Rhythm & Blues (Phil Everly on Harmony)
- Til The Bars Burn Down
- Simple Man, Simple Dream
- Silver Blue
- Midnight Prowl
- I Can Almost See It (Demo)
- Faithless Love
- Doors Swing Open
- Go Ahead And Rain
- Hearts Against The Wind (with Linda Ronstadt)
- The Sad Cafe
- It Might Be Mine (with Linda Ronstadt)
- The Heartbreaker (with Souther-Hillman-Fury Band)
- New Kid In Town
- Something In The Dark
- I’ll Be Here At Closing Time