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James Taylor

When people use the term "singer/songwriter" (often modified by the word "sensitive") in praise or in criticism, they're thinking of James Taylor. In the early '70s, when he appeared with his introspective songs, acoustic guitar, and calm, understated singing style, he mirrored a generation's emotional exhaustion after tumultuous times. Just as Bing Crosby's reassuring voice brought the country out of the Depression and through World War II, Taylor's eased the transition from '60s activism and its attendant frustrations into the less political, more inward-looking '70s. He was rewarded with a series of hit albums and singles (surprisingly, many of the latter were covers of old songs rather than his own compositions), and he managed to survive his initial fame to achieve lasting popularity. He continued to tour successfully for decades, and, starting with his 1970 breakthrough Sweet Baby James, all but one of his regular album releases for the rest of the century went gold or platinum, while his 1976 Greatest Hits album achieved a diamond certification reflecting sales of more than ten million copies.

Taylor was the son of Dr. Isaac and Gertrude Taylor. His three brothers Alex (1947-1993), Livingston, and Hugh -- and his sister Kate -- all became musicians and recorded albums of their own. In 1951, Dr. Taylor was appointed dean of the medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the family moved from New England to the South. Taylor studied cello as a child, but first took up the guitar in 1960. In 1963, he began attending Milton Academy, a prep school in Massachusetts. That summer, he met fellow guitarist Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar while staying on Martha' s Vineyard, and the two formed a folk duo. Taylor dropped out of school at 16 and formed a band with his brother Alex. Having moved to New York, he suffered from depression and checked himself into McLean Psychiatric Hospital in Massachusetts, a stay that would inspire some of his early songs. While there, he earned a high-school diploma. Upon release, he returned to New York in 1966 and formed a new group, the Flying Machine, with Kortchmar and Joel O'Brien. The band played in Greenwich Village and was signed to a fledgling record label, Rainy Day Records (the name taken from Taylor' s song "Rainy Day Man"). It released one single, "Brighten Your Night with My Day" / "Night Owl," both songs written by Taylor. The record was unsuccessful, and the band broke up in the spring of 1967.

By 1968, Taylor had become addicted to heroin. In an attempt to overcome his addiction, he moved to London, where he submitted a demo tape to Peter Asher, former member of Peter & Gordon, then working for the Beatles' Apple Records label. As a result, Taylor was signed to Apple and recorded his debut solo album, James Taylor, released in the U.K. in December 1968 and in the U.S. in February 1969. Initially, it received little attention. A more pressing concern, however, was that Taylor had not been able to kick heroin. As a result, he returned to the U.S. and checked into the Austin Riggs Hospital in Massachusetts. By July 1969, he had recovered sufficiently to make his solo debut at the Troubadour nightclub in Los Angeles, but soon after he was in a motorcycle accident and broke both of his hands, which put him out of commission for several months.

Freed of his Apple Records contract, Taylor signed to Warner Bros. Records, moved to California, and, retaining Asher as his manager and producer, recorded his second album, Sweet Baby James. It was released in February 1970 and became a major success during the course of the year, spurred by the single "Fire and Rain," a song that reflected on his experiences in mental institutions, which peaked in the Top Five in October, the same month that Sweet Baby James achieved the same status on the LP charts. With that, interest in Taylor's first album was re-stimulated, and it belatedly reached the charts along with the single "Carolina on My Mind," as did James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine -- 1967, a short collection of unfinished recordings made by his '60s band. Sweet Baby James then spawned a second hit single, "Country Road," which peaked in the Top 40 in March 1971. The same month, Taylor appeared on the cover of Time magazine, touted as the founder and leading proponent of the "singer/songwriter" trend in popular music.

Meanwhile, Taylor had acted in a feature film, Two-Lane Blacktop, co-starring with the Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson. It was not successful, and Taylor never pursued an acting career, though it has been well reviewed subsequently. Taylor also worked on a new album, returning to record stores in April 1971 with Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. As he toured the U.S., the LP spent the summer in the Top Ten, eventually peaking just below the top of the charts, paced by its first single, "You've Got a Friend," written by Carole King, which hit number one in July and went gold. A second single, "Long Ago and Far Away," reached the Top 40, and the album eventually sold more than two million copies. On March 14, 1972, Taylor won the 1971 Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, for "You've Got a Friend."

Taylor took what was then considered a long time -- more than a year and a half -- to come up with his next album, One Man Dog, released in November 1972. On November 3, 1972, during an appearance at Radio City Music Hall in New York, he announced to the crowd that he had married singer/songwriter Carly Simon earlier in the day. Simon was already well known for the hits "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" and "Anticipation," and would soon top the charts with "You're So Vain." One Man Dog marked a fall-off in Taylor's record sales, though it went gold, reached the Top Five, and spawned a Top 20 single in "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight."

Taylor was next heard from in January 1974, when he sang a duet with his wife of "Mockingbird," a cover of the 1963 hit by Inez & Charlie Foxx, on her Hotcakes album. Released as a single, the recording reached the Top Five and went gold. That spring, Taylor launched a major tour in anticipation of his next album, Walking Man, released in June. Though it reached the Top 20, the album was a commercial disappointment, failing to go gold or produce a chart single. But Taylor bounced back the following year with the May release of Gorilla. Again, he succeeded by reviving an old hit, this time Marvin Gaye's 1964 song "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)," which reached the Top Five, helping the album become a Top Ten, gold-selling hit.

In the Pocket, Taylor's seventh album, was his third annual warm-weather release, appearing in June 1976. Its single was the singer's own "Shower the People," which reached the Top 40, while the album made the Top 20 and went gold. Nearing the end of his Warner Bros. contract, Taylor re-recorded a couple of his Apple songs for his Greatest Hits LP, released in November. It became a perennial seller. With that, in a major coup, he was signed by Columbia Records. His debut for the label, JT, was released in June 1977. Once again, a revival spurred its sales, as Taylor covered Jimmy James' 1959 song "Handy Man" and took it into the Top Five, followed by a Top 20 showing for his own "Your Smiling Face." With such stimulation, JT reached the Top Five and sold over two million copies. On February 23, 1978, Taylor picked up a second Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, for "Handy Man."

Along with Paul Simon, Taylor was a featured singer on Art Garfunkel's cover of "(What A) Wonderful World," previously a hit for Sam Cooke and Herman's Hermits, which peaked in the Top 20 in March 1978. Taylor next became involved with the Broadway musical Working, based on Studs Terkel's bestseller, writing three songs for it. The show ran a scant 25 performances after opening on May 14, 1978, but Taylor reclaimed "Millworker" and "Brother Trucker" for his next album. Meanwhile, his duet with Carly Simon on a revival of the Everly Brothers' "Devoted to You" peaked in the Top 40 in September.

Flag, marking a nearly two-year break between albums, appeared in April 1979, its Top 40 hit single being a revival of the 1963 Drifters hit "Up on the Roof." Despite the lack of a really big hit single, the LP reached the Top Ten and went platinum. That September, Taylor performed at Madison Square Garden in the No Nukes concerts, later being featured in the No Nukes triple LP and in the No Nukes concert film.

Taylor embarked on a national tour in the summer of 1980, despite not having a current album to promote. From here on, recurrent touring became a regular part of his career and contributed to his longevity as an artist. That fall, he appeared on the children's album In Harmony 2, singing "Jelly Man Kelly." The album won the 1981 Grammy for Best Recording for Children. He toured extensively during 1981, releasing Dad Loves His Work in February. The album reached the Top Ten and went gold, spurred by the Top Ten success of the single "Her Town Too," written by Taylor, J.D. Souther, and Waddy Wachtel, Taylor's most successful original composition since "Fire and Rain."

Taylor continued to tour frequently in the early '80s, a period when his marriage to Carly Simon came to an end (they were divorced in 1983). Often, his performances took place overseas. In January 1985, he performed at the Rock in Rio concert in Brazil, a show that resulted in the Brazil-only release Live in Rio. His next studio album, following a gap of more than four years, was That's Why I'm Here, released in October 1985. As usual, his record label issued a cover song as the single; in this case it was Buddy Holly's "Everyday," which didn't get very far up the charts. Nevertheless, Taylor's long career and constant touring had brought him a permanent audience ready to buy his records, and the album eventually went platinum. On December 14, 1985, he married for the second time, to Kathryn Walker; a month later, he was on tour in Australia.

Road work continued to be Taylor's primary occupation in the mid-'80s, but he came off tour long enough to finish another album, Never Die Young, only a little more than two years after That's Why I'm Here, released in January 1988. The title song, issued as a single, barely reached the charts, but Never Die Young was another million-seller. The late '80s and early '90s saw more extensive worldwide touring. New Moon Shine, Taylor's 13th regular album release, came in October 1991, the same month that he sold out six consecutive shows at the Paramount Theater in New York; the disc stayed in the charts nearly a year and sold a million copies.

Despite his consistent draw as a concert attraction, Taylor had never released a live album in the U.S. until the August 1993 appearance of Live, a two-CD set that went platinum within months. Columbia Records, which had never had a Taylor compilation to promote, trimmed the album down to a single disc of hits for the 1994 release (Best Live). Taylor was divorced from his second wife in 1996. His next album, Hourglass, released in May 1997, demonstrated his continuing appeal by entering the charts in the Top Ten. On February 25, 1998, it won the 1997 Grammy for Best Pop Album. In October the same year, Columbia issued the DVD Live at the Beacon Theatre while Billboard magazine was honoring Taylor with their highest accolade, the Century Award.

By 2000, Taylor's first Greatest Hits collection had sold over ten million copies, earning him the RIAA's Diamond Award. Taylor was also inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2000, and at the end of the year, Columbia issued Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, covering the years 1977-1997. Fans who had waited five years for new material were awarded with October Road in 2002, an album that earned two Grammy nominations and eventually went platinum. A year later, The Best of James Taylor became the first compilation to cover material from his years with Apple, Warner Bros., and Columbia. In 2004, he appeared on the television show The West Wing, released a Christmas Album, and sang the national anthem before game two of the World Series. Two years later, Taylor released James Taylor at Christmas and made an appearance on the soundtrack for the Pixar film Cars. In 2007, the CD/DVD One Man Band was released on the Hear Music label. An album featuring a dozen cover versions of various songs, simply and appropriately called Covers, followed a year later in 2008, also from Hear Music. A sequel, Other Covers, appeared in 2009. Following a highly successful dual tour with Carole King, Taylor and King released a concert CD/DVD set called Troubadour Reunion in 2010. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

I love America
nancytontan
I meant as a LIVE performance.
nancytontan
Since 1966, I've seen every Major music act LIVE, from the Stones to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Dylan, Ray Charles, Waylon Jennings, to Eagles, Ronstadt, to Johnny Rivers and Johnny Cash. Also, Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton. The Very BEST, in my opinion, is James Taylor. Jackson Browne is a close 2nd.
masterpacec2 2 1
The original JT! He is proof that people CAN kick heroin. Much love to a fellow New Englander.
Nate Seawater.... Jeez so obvious
seen JT at University of N.O. Lakefront Arena few years back... there wasn't alot of his beautiful hair left but his voice was still just as sweet, I've always loved James Taylor...
jody.mijojo
A
1591425100
Who cares? Enjoy the music
bencreedcome d y
how can pandora make so many songwriter credit mistakes?
Love, love it
Rose why post here go a dog& cat show
I served seven years in the Marine Corps and Sir James came with me where ever I went. His music helped me put things back in perspective when things didn't seem to make sense. There was this one moment on time that I remember as if it was yesterday. It was during the first Gulf War back in 90/91. I was sitting in a fox hole on the front line chewing the cud with my fellow Marines listing to armed forces radio. When You've got a friend came on, you could hear a pin drop for we immediately stoppe
denivick
james taylor has been my lifesaver when growing up. Gave me so much. music is so powerful. saw him 3 times. Elton John 4 back in the 70,s nice.
My family pet passed away today! Daisy was the best friend ever! People can be so cruel! Pets are our true friends unconditiona l love! Bless her little heart the entire family showed up by her side with love prays for our little girl.
My family pet passed away today... she was the best friend ever! thank you Daisy for bringing me so much joy and happiness! z
jackiejohnso n u n c
Enjoy always..the absolute wonderful!
No better voice anywhere. He can soothe the soul.
rootedinsilv e r 2
sorry about your mum
this is the song that I wish was written for my mum!! I played this everyday after she died.....Mis s you so much mum
holt56
I absolutely love Something In The Way She Moves. Great song.
Said Before!- James "One OF THE "GREATEST OF ALLLL TIMMMMES!"!! !
I love to hear him sing. He is the bomb.
A bio that doesn't say when nor where someone was born...is not a bio.
Makes me want to give me a hug
marissag324
Does anyone have an extra 3 tickets to his concert in Dallas in June? My daughter wanted to treat me to his concert but didn't know how to buy them the day they went on sale. We wanted to be close enough to see James' blue eyes.
marissag324@ y a h o o . c o m
marissag324
There is no one like James Taylor. I love his sweet spirit that you feel through his music.
Just Great!!! Sexy!!!- Mellow Voice!!!!!- One of My All time Favorites!!! !
1 Kiss ur left hand
2.Say your crush's name
3.Close ur hand
4.Pick a school day
5.Say ur name
6.Post this on fifteen more songs and on the day u picked u will be asked out by ur crush
Sensitive as a buzz word for criticism is like judging food for tasting good. Why do all of the old school bios start with a dig at the beginning?
some really stupid postings,,,, , , ,
Thanks for getting me through the lonely times... and the best of times.
Happy 66th Birthday on the 12th Carolina still on my mind!
James Taylor today. Happy birthday. Nice holp.
One. Fun tony
Thank you Mr. Taylor!
Now this is the man!!
james taylor is the greatest
Happy birthday. James Taylor.
Nice. One. Fun. See. Cornet
Meeting. Arrest. Tony feliciano
Maria de barros.
Copper line
smooth and beautiful...
I'm a long time JT fan and October Road is my all time favorite!
James Taylor Radio
James is my all time fave. I notice that not all of his albums are shown on the discography -- like October Road and New Moon Shine. Good music on those that we're missing on Pandora!
Fire & Rain - Great lyrics, melody, voice......
James Taylor. Tony
The Beatles James Tayor Simon & Garfunkel just listen to the words ,,,Then learn how to play an instument and SING make your world Happy!
Times gone by
James Taylor's concert in Salt Lake City in Oct. or Nov. 2013 was awesome ! Beautiful mellow voice to be loved by everyone.
that was the days
edwindeg
Reminds me of high school days
I love this song also fire and rain
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