Danny O‘Keefe: The Road
I was looking at the moon, and I noticed that there was a bright object close by it in the sky. I speculated that, with the moon almost full, the object must be a planet. Checking into it, I found that this was Jupiter. And I thought of the line, ”You’re right about the moon, but you’re wrong about the stars.”
Of course, the line comes from the song The Road. And here is the original version, by Danny O’Keefe. Most people, if they know the song, think Jackson Browne wrote it. It was on Browne’s album of songs about touring, Running on Empty, and it fit right in. But Browne saw no reason to write a new song about a musician’s hopes and fears of his life on the road, when such a perfect example already existed. Although Browne turned in a fairly faithful cover, the song, in his hands, came off almost as ironic. After all, Jackson Browne was famous enough then, and to this date, that no one was ever likely to forget who he was.
But far too few people know the name Danny O’Keefe. O’Keefe was a “songwriter’s songwriter”. His work was known mainly to other songwriters, many of whom championed him by performing his work. His other well known song is Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues. Usually, a songwriter’s songwriter eventually has a breakthrough and becomes known in his own right. Tom Waits and John Hiatt are fine examples of this. But, for Danny O’Keefe, that breakthrough never came. And I have no idea why not. Happily, O’Keefe is still working. Maybe his break will still come.
In the meantime, his version of The Road still rings true. As fame continues to elude him, O’Keefe still writes his songs, and takes what joy there is in giving others even momentary pleasure through his music.