Troubadour

By Wilkinson, Alec | The New Yorker, February 13, 2012 | Go to article overview

Troubadour


Wilkinson, Alec, The New Yorker


JD Souther, who is sixty-six, lives on a farm outside Nashville, and is most widely known for his part in writing sombre, elegiac songs that the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt made famous, such as "New Kid in Town," "Heartache Tonight," and "Faithless Love." He is small and trim, and looks hard-bitten and antique, as if he had stepped from a daguerreotype. He was in the city to play in the American Songbook series, at Lincoln Center, and was seated at a corner table at Patsy's, on West Fifty-sixth Street, the restaurant that Frank Sinatra favored.

Patsy's is a landmark for Souther, and for years he has eaten there as often as he can. With a drink beside him, he said that he reads at least six or seven books a week, and that he especially likes scientific subjects. In the course of an hour, his conversation touched on the physics behind the flight of the Concorde ("It's never coming back, it uses too much fuel"); the demotion of Pluto; the inability of most contemporary musicians to play the dotted eighth-note-sixteenth-note pattern called the shuffle, which was essential to early rock and roll; and his brief residency in New York during the winter of 1968, when he lived on Minetta Lane and left for Los Angeles when he grew tired of being cold.

"I've never made a record in New York, start to finish," he went on. "But I'd love to. Years ago, I came once for a week and ended up staying three months. I had a suite at the Plaza, and I was writing. I always write when I'm here. Everyone's writing in New York all the time anyway. People mumble to themselves on the street. It's inspiring. Do I have any New York stories? I fell in the fountain in front of the Plaza, but I think everyone has. I fell in with a beautiful woman, so I got to say the thing I've always wanted to say: 'Let's get out of these wet things and into a dry Martini.' "

Souther grew up in Texas, and his first instrument was the violin. "I was a bona-fide orchestra nerd," he said. …

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