“The Circle Game,” by Tom Rush, released in January 1968, remains one of my favourite albums, and timeless classic. This wonderful album not only showcased Tom Rush’s distinctive guitar style but also his warm, expressive voice. However, what makes this album even more remarkable is its association with some of the era’s up-and-coming songwriters who would later become iconic figures in the music industry.
Among the notable songwriters featured on this album were Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Jackson Browne. Little did we know that these artists, back in 1968, were on the cusp of remarkable careers.
Joni Mitchell, who penned songs like “The Circle Game,” “Tin Angel,” (a song about a romantic relationship, and it’s often interpreted as a reflection on the complexities and challenges that can arise in intimate relationships) and “Urge for Going” on this album, had already released her debut album, “Song to A Seagull,” in the same year. But it would be her subsequent albums, including “Ladies of the Canyon” and “Blue,” would go on to establish her as one of the most influential singer-songwriters of all time.
James Taylor, had also released his debut album but was yet to hit the big time. His eponymous debut album, featuring songs like “Something in the Way She Moves” and “Sunshine Sunshine,” was released on the Beatles’ Apple label but hadn’t made a significant impact. However, it was only a matter of time before James Taylor’s signature hits like “Sweet Baby James”, and “Fire & Rain” would make him a household name.
As for Jackson Browne, he was already an accomplished songwriter but not yet the acclaimed singer-songwriter he would become. His debut album wouldn’t be released for another four years, but he had already started making his mark as a songwriter. Notably, he co-wrote “Take It Easy” with Glenn Frey, a song that would later become one of the Eagles‘ first hits.
It’s worth mentioning that during this era, it wasn’t uncommon for songwriters to share their creations with other artists. Jackson Browne, for instance, “gave” the song “Take It Easy” to the Eagles, which helped launch their career. This practice of collaboration and sharing of songs was a hallmark of the vibrant music scene of the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Additionally, artists like Linda Ronstadt played a pivotal role in popularizing the music of these budding songwriters. For instance, Linda Ronstadt covered songs by the Eagles, helping introduce their music to a wider audience. Her covers of songs like “Desperado” played a significant role in establishing the Eagles as a prominent band in the 1970s.
This interconnected web of songwriting and collaboration was not limited to just these artists. Even Peter Asher, brother of Jane Asher (one time girlfriend to Paul McCartney) and one half of the famed British duo Peter and Gordon, became a crucial figure in the music industry. He went on to work as a producer for James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, further intertwining the legacies of these remarkable musicians.
In retrospect, “The Circle Game” serves as a snapshot of a transformative era in music. It’s a reminder of how these artists, though still emerging at the time, would go on to shape the sound and soul of an entire generation through their heartfelt songs and enduring contributions to the world of music.