Jackson Browne on testing positive for COVID-19, his condition and passing it to his son

Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne says that his “physical symptoms have mostly abated.”
(Paul Mobley)

First the good news: Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne says, “I’m OK — I’m not bad at all” after learning this week that he has tested positive for COVID-19. His symptoms, he told The Times on Wednesday, are on the wane, and he believes he’s one of the majority of those who become infected who are predicted to have mild symptoms and make a full recovery.

Browne shared his news this week, using his diagnosis to emphasize a message that “Everybody has a role to play in the health of the entire country, and of the world.”

The 71-year-old musician spoke about how he thinks he contracted the virus, how he got tested and what he’s doing while self-quarantining in his Los Angeles home.


We polled more than 30 music critics, inside and outside The Times, on the best albums to listen to while you’re stuck at home (and kind of freaking out).

How are you feeling — what symptoms have you had?
I’m OK — I’m not bad at all. My physical symptoms have mostly abated. In fact, there’s very little of it left.

What prompted you to get tested — were you feeling ill?
While I was working in the studio [after returning to L.A. from taking part in the Love Rocks benefit concert March 12 in New York], I was observing every precaution, swabbing everything down, washing hands regularly. As soon as I felt like I had a bit of a temperature and a little cough, I shut down the work and told everyone, “We’re done.” The next day I arranged to take a test, then it was a day before I could do it. I heard right around then that somebody from the production crew of the Love Rocks show had come down with it. That was a strong indication to me that I probably did have it. But I didn’t know until yesterday when my test came back [positive].

By that time, I wasn’t getting sicker and sicker. It wasn’t even the kind of sick where I’d miss a day of work, the kind of thing that would usually turn into a huge chest cough — nothing like that, it was just weird. And that told me this was not like other colds or flu — for me, anyway. I feel very fortunate. It didn’t knock me out that bad. I have friends who were in the production crew in New York who are quite sick. It just goes to show that you don’t know if you’re going to be one of the ones who gets hit really hard by it.

Were you hospitalized or prescribed any treatment?
No. If I were having trouble I think I would have been treated. If I was telling my doctor I couldn’t breathe, I’d be getting something. I feel fortunate that I didn’t have to go to the hospital or use any supplies or medications that others really need.

Describe the process of being tested. Was that through your private physician?
Yes. It takes some time because there are so few of the test kits. But the real shortage is of the protective gowns and masks that healthcare workers need to protect themselves. That’s a real problem. It took a long time to get the results back, I think, just because of the number of tests that are put in. They’re all sent to a centralized test center. They were so busy they couldn’t even log it in. It was really very upsetting — it wasn’t showing up that they had even received it. Then they finally got it and I knew.

How are you isolating — are there any other family members at home too or just you?
I’m sequestering in place. I have people who work for me, who drop food for me. I have the help I need. I did pass it on to my son [Ethan, the elder of his two children]. He’s isolating in his house, and his symptoms are also somewhat mild. He didn’t go to New York. He had the foresight to say, “Don’t go.” I thought, in my ignorance, that it was manageable, that you could be careful, follow the procedures and be safe. My son was right, and I shouldn’t have gone to this show.

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How are you spending your time?
Playing music, listening, reading and working on some songs [for a new album he may release this fall]. But I’m really taking a lot of time to communicate with everybody.

What do you make of people who say “I’m not going to let the government tell me what to do” and that until this directly affects a family member, neighbor or friend, they aren’t going to take it seriously?

Frankly it’s hard to take the government seriously when they’re all standing up there at these press conferences, standing close together, touching the microphone, shaking hands and patting each other on the back? How can you help but think, “Why should I listen to these guys?”

And now [President] Trump is saying we’re going to be back up and running by Easter, and he’s just so full of wrong information, even though Anthony Fauci steps up to correct him at every step. Good on Fauci for doing that job, because it has to be done. Someone needs to correct these lies and misinformation and foolish statements that come out of them.

[New York] Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo has been incredible. His addresses have been very thoughtful and forthright. He can think on his feet, he can talk deeply and intelligently on the issues. He never talks about himself. He’s simply talking about the health of the people and how we’ll get through it, and that’s refreshing.

Besides the shortage of test kits and protective gear for healthcare workers, what else do you see as a need in the fight against this virus?
I think that some leadership is needed — because we have to protect those people we’re depending on to deliver food, to deliver medical services, the people who take care of us while we go through this. If you don’t have an essential job like that, then your job is to make sure those people don’t get sick. Don’t go anywhere, don’t be running all over town taking care of things that are nonessential, running errands. Your job is to flatten the curve, your job is to not pass that on to anyone else by staying home.