James Taylor

James Taylor is a folk rock artist from Carrboro, North Carolina. Like Simon and Garfunkel he was part of the folk revolution of the late sixties when many artists in this genre found their audience. Through his career James has been awarded six Grammies, released ten top ten albums and tons of singles, all of this spanning a forty year active music career which still continues today. Though out his live there has never a point when he stopped focusing on music. At one point he was injured in a motorcycle accident and was unable to play but all the while he kept penning songs. Music has been his true calling, to his detriment on a few occasions.
The cover of James Taylor's Mud Slide Slim album.

James Taylor was born to a well off family from Massachusetts. His father was a doctor and when James was three years old he moved the family to North Carolina where he took a position at a medical school. Due to his father’s career James dad really wasn’t around that much but also due to his father’s career James was sent off to private schools for his education so his father’s absence didn’t matter too much. It was at a boarding school he was attending back in Massachusetts called Milton Academy that James suffered his first setback due to depression. Despite having plenty of friends there and playing guitar in the local music scene he got to a point where he just couldn’t handle it anymore and had to drop out of Milton, he finished his junior year back in North Carolina at the local public high school. His first serious problem with depression came the following year. He decided to go back to Milton and finish up his senior year with his friends but was hit with another bout of depression. This time it was so severe that he had to be institutionalized for nine months at the McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. His clinical prognosis exempted him from the draft which was in full swing at the time due to the Vietnam war. The issue of depression would haunt him for many many years to come. It would push him into and out of relationships, into and out of drug abuse and, most noticeably to his fans, deeply effect his song writing(albeit selfishly, in a good way).

One particularly interesting part of the James Taylor story is how he got his first record published. It was after a run in with heroine while living in NYC where his father had to come and drive him back to NC. Upon arrival his father immediately put him in rehab. After rehab James was looking for a road to take with his life. Unexpectedly he receiving a inheritance and with it he decided to move to England and try to start a fresh recording career there. While in England he made some recordings and shopped them around to a connection he made back in NYC. The fellow worked for Apple Records of Beatles fame and took the recordings to Paul McCartney and the boys. Paul McCartney immediately fell in love with this then unknown artist named James Taylor and signed him to Apple, he was actually the first American artist to be signed to Apple and his first album was indeed put out by them. For other more complicated reasons James left Apple records just prior to his first album’s release but I still think it’s neat that James Taylor at least partially owes his career to the Beatles.

As stated earlier James Taylor is a pretty emotional guy and it comes across in his music. His voice is incredibly good and his playing so spot on that he could sing a song about a puppy going through a wood chipper and you’d be singing along with him just the same. His actual song topics aren’t really that far from the puppy scenario. One of his biggest hits, “Fire and Rain” is about his time spent in mental institutions and the suicide of a close friend. I got into James Taylor because my mother was really into him back in the day. She’s no longer with us but listening to his music does make me remember times with her. Sometimes it seems like his music is written to evoke just such memories. It’s almost gospel, while having nothing to do with the gospel.

Over the years James has put out a ton of records and I can’t say I’ve listened to all of them extensively. My favorites so far are his second and third, “Sweet Baby James” and “Mud Slide Slim”. I also have October Road(actually purchased for me by my mother), which is pretty good too. Sweet Baby James has got to be my favorite James Taylor album though.

1) James Taylor [1968]
2) Sweet Baby James [1970]
3) Mud Slide Slim And the Blue Horizon [1971]
4) One Man Dog [1972]
5) Walking Man [1974]
6) Gorilla [1975]
7) In The Pocket [1976]
8) JT[1977]
9) Flag [1979]
10) Dad Loves His Work [1981]
11) That’s Why I’m Here [1985]
12) Never Die Young [1988]
13) New Moon Shine [1991]
14) Hourglass [1997]
15) October Road [2002]

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