American Songwriting Pioneer
“Souther proves his work holds up as well as Dylan’s or Simon’s or Lennon and McCartney’s and…deserves such astute re-examination” – Jazz Times
If you ask John David where he’s from, he may say without hesitation; “I’m from Amarillo.” But depending on who’s asking, he may shrug and say: “I’m from everywhere, I guess.” He would be mostly right either way. Born in Detroit and raised in Texas, Souther came into his own upon moving to Los Angeles and becoming part of the burgeoning singer/songwriter scene surrounding the Troubadour bar. It was here that John David met the artists who would figure so prominently in his career: Glenn Frey, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder and many others.
By 1971, Souther had, in his words, “stepped into himself,” with a solo deal that gave him the venue he had been seeking. Jackson Browne had taken him to David Geffen’s house to audition for Geffen’s new label, Asylum Records: “I played David two of my best but probably not most radio friendly pieces and he just said; ‘OK. Go make a record.’ I couldn’t believe it.” The record, John David Souther, was a critical success and established Souther as a songwriter who had definitely arrived.
On his own, but certainly not alone, his songwriting flourished. By 1976, Eagles had huge hits with his music, Linda Ronstadt had made breathtaking recordings of his songs, some of them duets with him. But it would be 1979 before Souther registered his first really massive hit as a solo artist: “You’re Only Lonely” from the LP You’re Only Lonely. The track hit #1 at Adult Contemporary radio that year and rose as high as #7 on the Billboard Top 100. Through the 1980s, JD continued songwriting collaborations with his friend Don Henley, contributing to the first three of Henley’s classic solo efforts. The ‘80s and ‘90s saw Souther’s songs sell another 10 million or so units on records by George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Brooks and Dunn, and the Dixie Chicks, to name a few.
A major career accolade was received in 2013, as JD was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. He also appeared in the ABC-TV hit drama Nashville, in the recurring role of Zen-like producer/guru Watty White.
Recent years have found Souther adopting more of a jazz songwriter persona, with records full of new and old originals recorded in a stripped down, haunting style. Souther is balancing his pop and jazz sensibilities, paying particular homage to his earliest influences, the geniuses of the 20th Century Great American Songbook on his latest record, Tenderness.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“Souther did more than sketch out the emotional landscape for the introspective West Coast country-rock sound of the 1970s. He set the template.” -No Depression
“A pivotal member of the L.A. country-rock posse of the Seventies” -Rolling Stone