Singer/songwriter [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]J. D. Souther[/lastfm] celebrates his 66th birthday last week. If you don’t know his name, you probably know some of his work.
I’ve always wondered how it was that Souther was never an official member of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Eagles[/lastfm] — he collaborated with [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Don Henley[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Glenn Frey[/lastfm] on several of the band’s songs, and his solo work often had the same vibe. (His most famous collaboration was in the manufactured mid-’70s supergroup the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Souther-Hillman-Furay Band[/lastfm].) His lone Top-40 hit was “You’re Only Lonely” in 1979, and he sang with [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]James Taylor[/lastfm] on the 1981 hit “Her Town Too.”
Souther surfaced next as an actor, most notably with a recurring role on Thirtysomething. Even if you didn’t know who he was in real life, you’d peg him as a rock singer, from the California cool of his late-’80s look to the sound of his speaking voice, which is a dead ringer for Frey’s.
But Souther went 24 years between albums, between 1984′s Home by Dawn and the 2008 release If the World Was You. By that pace, he’d be due to record again in 2032, but Natural History arrived 21 years early, this past summer. The album features an unplugged version of “You’re Only Lonely,” and he also unplugs for three Eagles songs that he co-wrote with the band: “New Kid in Town,” “Best of My Love,” and “The Sad Cafe.” The arrangements are stunning, making songs you’ve heard a million times seem brand new, but so is Souther’s singing: “Like an angel,” a friend of mine says. He can still get the high notes he hit back in the day.