5 Songs That Feature J.D. Souther (Whether You Realized It Or Not)

Monday, November 2, 2020
Christopher Cross CHRISTOPHER CROSS Cover

Today we celebrate the birthday of singer-songwriter J.D. Souther, a man whose last name does not end in an “N,” no matter how many times Spellcheck wants to assure you that it does. To commemorate the birth of the man who played a part in the musical careers of many a California-based musician, we’ve put together a list of five songs that feature J.D.’s vocals, and while we’ll grant you that you might not actually be able to hear them, we can assure you that the credits confirm that he’s definitely there, so...listen closer!


  1. John Prine, “Common Sense” (1975): Produced by Steve Cropper, this tune was the title track to Prine’s 1975 album, but it’s not the only song on the LP that features Souther. You can also hear him – at least theoretically – on “Wedding Day in Funeralville.” It’s definitely an all-star effort by Prine in terms of guest stars, with other tunes featuring contributions by Jackson Browne, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Glenn Frey, Steve Goodman, and Bonnie Raitt.


  1. Randy Newman, “Short People” (1977): Although it’s been an albatross around Newman’s neck at times to have this semi-novelty tune as his biggest hit, you can’t deny the talent on the tune: Souther joined Glenn Frey and Timothy B. Schmidt on backing vocals, Klaus Voormann played bass, and it’s Jim Keltner on drums and Waddy Wachtel on guitar. You don’t get a much more talented line-up than that.


  1. Christopher Cross, “The Light is On” (1979): It might not have been one of the hit singles from the album, but just by virtue of being on a song on Christopher Cross’s self-titled album at all, a whole lot of people got to hear Souther’s voice. Of course, given how many other people’s albums he’s on, you have to figure that the novelty’s probably worn off for Souther at this point.


  1. The Dream Academy, “Indian Summer” (1987): This tune got a big bump in profile by virtue of Lindsey Buckingham playing a part in its creation. “We'd been working with him for a couple of weeks on a couple of things, and he'd just split up from Fleetwood Mac for the first time, so it was quite an intense time in his house at the very top of the canyon,”  Nick Laird-Clowes recalled in an interview with Rhino. “It was very interesting times, to put it mildly. But we'd made that in these wonderful studios, and we had all these great people, because he'd brought, like, J.D. Souther down and the Williams Brothers and all these people to sing backup on the big chant chorus.”


  1. Barry Mann, “I Just Can’t Help Believin’” (1999): Although he’s far better known for his songwriting than he is as a recording artist, Mann released a fun album in the late ‘90s which found him crooning a number of his tunes that had become big hits for other artists. This one, for example, was a big hit for B.J. Thomas in the U.S., although it was an even bigger hit for Elvis Presley in just about every country other than America. Go figure.