James Taylor

  • Singer and songwriter born in 1948 in Boston Massachusetts. Taylor grew up in Chapel Hill North Carolina, and he spent his summers on Martha’s Vineyard.
  • He learned to play the cello as a child, and switched to the acoustic guitar when he was 12. He wrote his first song when he was 14, and at 15, he was playing at coffee houses on Martha’s Vineyard. By his senior year of high school, he was suffering from depression – his grades collapsed, and he slept 20 hours a day. At 17, he checked himself into a psychiatric hospital and stayed for 9 months – he claims that it saved his life.
  • In 1966, he checked out of the hospital and moved to New York City. He formed a band called The Flying Machine, and they played songs at clubs around Greenwich Village that Taylor wrote about his experiences in the hospital. They cut a single called Night Owl late 1966 that received some airplay in the Northeast. The band broke up later that year – and Taylor was hooked on heroin. After running out of money, he called his father in North Carolina, who immediately flew to New York, rented a car, and drove Taylor back to North Carolina.
  • After a six month rehab, he decided to try a solo career, and he moved to England. Taylor had a demo of his songs, and the demo got to Apple Records. Paul McCartney and George Harrison heard the demo, and they loved it. Taylor became the first non-British act signed to Apple Records.
  • His first album, the self titled James Taylor, was released in 1968. It includes the classics Something In the Way She Moves and Carolina In My Mind. However, the album did not sell well, and Taylor could not promote it, as he had to check himself back into rehab for addiction.
  • By late 1969, he was out of rehab, and he signed with another record label. His second album Sweet Baby James, was released in 1970, and it was his breakthrough album. It sold over 3 million copies, and reached #3 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The single Fire and Rain peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 chart, and the followup single, Country Road, also charted. Fire and Rain is about his experiences of trying to break his drug habit, and also is about the suicide of a friend. The album is listed at #104 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and Fire and Rain is #227 on their list of the greatest songs of all time.
  • His next album, 1971’s Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, contained his only #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart – a cover of Carole King’s classic, You’ve Got A Friend. Taylor won his first Grammy award for the song.
  • Between 1972 and 1976, Taylor released 4 studio albums. Sales were modest compared to his earlier albums, though he had a #5 hit with a cover of the Motown song How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). His song Shower The People reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary Chart, and #22 on the Hot 100 chart. In late 1976, his first Greatest Hits compilation was released. It became his best selling record, certified diamond, with over 11 million copies sold in the U.S., and nearly 20 million worldwide.
  • In 1977, he released his eighth studio album, JT. It began a string of 8 consecutive studio albums that were certified platinum. JT contains his last top 5 song, Handy Man, which earned another Grammy award. While the singles from the other albums did not chart highly on the Hot 100 chart, many of them were in the top 10 of the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • His studio album released in 2015 titled Before This World is his only album to reach #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Taylor is the second longest waiting artist for a number one album – it took 45 years for him to have a #1 album (Tony Bennett holds the record at 54 years). His 2020 album American Standard won the Grammy award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album – 50 years after winning his first Grammy.
  • In addition to the three Grammy awards mentioned above, Taylor has won three additional Grammys. He also was chosen Person of the Year in 2006 by the Grammy-sponsored MusiCares Foundation. In 2000, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He is ranked #84 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2015, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2016, he received the Kennedy Center Honors Award.
  • The acoustic sound of James Taylor is one of my great memories of getting into music during the 70s. My favorite – Carolina In My Mind. The awards he has received in recent years is testimony to the impact he has had on generations of music lovers – a true icon. Watch this clip of a solo performance of Taylor playing Fire and Rain – when you hear his voice, and listen to his lyrics, you’ll hear why he had such an impact on music.

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