What does Running on Empty mean?

Jackson Browne: Running on Empty Meaning

Album cover for Running on Empty album cover

Song Released: 1978

Running on Empty Lyrics

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields
In '65 I was seventeen and running up 101
I don't know where I'm running now, I'm just running on

Running on - running on...

  1. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Mar 13th 2020 !⃝

    While I definitely enjoyed loved was intrigued by all the other people's ideas I will just add the teenage thing from 17 to 21 has got to be , or any five yr span near it , like 14-20
    or 19 -26 at the upper limit, so any 5 yr spread at that age is very significant to everyone,,
    then there is the whole unconscious thing of us being like a rock star documenting his life,,,just a guess on that one
    can someone here help me by giving an interpretation of Red Neck Friends

  2. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 1st 2017 !⃝

    To me this represents the struggle for meaning in life when there appears no logic to life at all.

  3. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 28th 2016 !⃝

    When I first heard the song, I was in my mid 20ies back in the 70ies. I loved the song when I first heard it. I now that I am in my 60ies. I still love the song. It relates to the way I feel and felt about my life. Thank You Jackson Browne and I hope to meet you someday before I die.

  4. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 14th 2015 !⃝

    Cocaine era!

  5. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 20th 2014 !⃝

    Running on empty..a metaphor simply expressed by a youth reaching adulthood, as also applied to the whole United states.
    A country torn by the Vietnam War,
    Lacking in goals
    Distrust of government
    impending gas crisis (not sure about timing)
    failing vigor & energy &
    Falling toward the fringes of moral bankruptcy.
    (with or without Nixon, Watergate, the tapes, people like Spiro Agnew) .

    It is a short allegory, comparable in some ways to:
    Don Mcclean's American Pie, which would date the beginning of the death of the American spirit with the death of Buddy Holly, & more positive music, as narrarated by mcclean as a boy coming of age way too quickly.

  6. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Feb 21st 2013 !⃝

    Interpretations are plausible however what event sparked the Running on Empty phrase? When Jackson Browne was putting together this album he did not have a job and it seemed every day when he drove to the studio his car's gas tank was on empty.

  7. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 23rd 2011 !⃝

    One of the best song I have ever heard of! The main phrases "Running on empty," and "running behind" depicts human's incomplete goal, hope against hope and life's imperfection.
    In 1965, the speaker was only 19. He was young and strong, but within a blink of an eye, time flew away, he became 21,and he eventually was left behind his destination. Even if he tried, he never seemed to get by. This song apply to everyone..especially, the failure one.
    Time is passing by and we are just living on memories and regret.
    The sweetest songs are those that tell of the saddest thoughts.
    I'm a refugee from Burma. Every time I listen this song there are tears drop in my eyes.

  8. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 17th 2011 !⃝

    The idea here is that by constantly being on the move, one can stay ahead and keep "one's love" or passion for existence alive.

    If one stops, one will stagnant and fall over. Thus, 'Running on Empty' is the constant on-the-go, which never leads anywhere except for greater exhaustion and exasperation.

    It's a paradox about finding one's place in a world where that's not really an option for everyone.

More Jackson Browne songs »


Latest Articles


Submit Your Interpretation

[ want a different song? ]

Just Posted

Monkey Wrench anonymous
She Talks To Angels anonymous
Boyfriend anonymous
This is Home anonymous
In My Room RawrRobin
In My Room RawrRobinRawr
Clint Eastwood anonymous
Badge anonymous
The Zoo anonymous
Nobody's Perfect anonymous
Life of the Party anonymous
Partners in Crime anonymous
Soap anonymous
Just a Dream anonymous
You Belong With Me anonymous

(We won't give out your email)