By Christopher Nyerges [www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com]
Severin Browne has a secure spot on the list of prominent musician/songwriters from Highland Park, along with his brother, Jackson, Timothy Sellers, Tommy Trujillo and the phenom Billie Eilish and her brother, Finneas.
And now, Severin, who lives in the home built by his grandfather near the Arroyo Seco, has a new album, Overdue, an honest, autobiographical ten song CD released this year.
It’s been quite a journey to this point.
Severin’s father, Jack, a jazz musician, taught him to love and appreciate music from an early age. His first instrument was the accordion. He also played drums in the Garvanza Elementary school orchestra (where brother Jackson played cornett). By high school, in the 1960s, Severin was playing guitar — a cooler looking and sounding instrument to the teenage Severin.
At age 21, he signed a deal to write songs for Jobete Music Company, the publishing arm of Motown Records. He released his first two albums with Motown: “Severin Browne” in 1973 and “New Improved Severin Browne” in 1974.
Then, Browne left Motown. “I collected myself and tried to find my muse,” he says.
Along with jobs as a busboy/water at the Great American Food and Beverage Company, a salesclerk at the Westwood Music Company and as a courier, Severin spent his time writing and performing in the Los Angeles area, where his songs were recorded by Thelma Houston, Patti Dahlstrom, Colin Blunstone, Twiggy, The Dillards and Pamala Stanley, who had a Billboard #15 hit with Severin’s “I Don’t Want To Talk About It.”
There was a two-year stint in New Orleans, starting as a plantation groundskeeper, but that soon ended (the “duties of groundskeeper were not what I expected…”). Severin joined the New Orleans music scene, until his return to L.A. in 1989. After completing computer training, he landed a job at MCA Records as a computer analyst and worked there until 1995.
In 1996, Severin released his third solo record, “From the Edge of the World” on Moo Records. He also got a job working in upstate New York at a songwriting summer camp called SummerSongs, a job he returned to each year until they expanded to California. He continues to teach there occasionally.
He released his own CDs: “This Twisted Road” in 2001 and “Lucky Man – A Songwriter’s Notebook” in 2011.
It was also in 2011 that he helped form Tall Men Group, a band he still performs with.
Tall Men Group started as a monthly get together with his friend, Jimmy Yessian, and other songwriters to have dinner and talk about music. At each meeting, they gave each other a songwriting challenge. “We soon realized that we were all writing better than we had been,” says Severin. “So…we decided to start playing as a band, and it’s been going ever since,” albeit now with only four of the original six members. One member left in 2019 and Jimmy passed away recently. “We are honoring Jimmy by keeping the band going,” says Severin.
According to Severin, who is now in his seventies: “I am old enough to know a good dream when I see one, and Tall Men Group was definitely a good dream.”
Overdue was another good dream. “I felt that it was time to make another solo CD,” says Severin. Overdue includes intriguing titles such as “Young and Free,” “Fukushima Sunset,” and “My Friends Are All Around Me.” Two of the songs are ones he wrote in the 1970s.
“My dreams have mellowed with age, but I still yearn to make music that my friends will enjoy,” says Severin. He has no dreams of what he calls “stardumb,” a word he uses to express feeling stupid now for wanting stardom when he was younger.
“My dream of writing songs and playing them is something I can do well into my old age,” he says.
Severin explains further with a smile, “I am at an age when I would be happy to spend every day catching up with old friends. I am old enough to realize that I am happy to have lived this long. I am happy to have experienced both my marriages, even though they both ended. And I am happy to have had the near misses and the many relationships that did not get that far. And I am happy to have had the disappointments and the successes, the tragedies and the triumphs.”
“Yes, the problem with life is that it will end,” he says. “None of us know when that will be, but only that it will. I want to spend my remaining time in this life with people that I love. In this age of the coronavirus, it is not so easy. If you are one of those people, call me. Let’s catch up.”
At SeverinBrowne.com, you can learn where to download, listen to and order Overdue and Severin’s other solo CDs and read more about Tall Men Group.
Christopher Nyerges is an educator who has written nearly two dozen books on the outdoors and natural history. More information can be found at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.
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