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Profile: James Taylor

By

James Taylor

James Taylor

source: pricegrabber.com

Born:

James Vernon Taylor on March 12, 1948, Boston, MA

Genres:

Singer-songwriter, Folk-pop, Soft rock, Adult contemporary

Instruments:

Vocals, guitar

Contributions to music:

  • Essentially created and defined the sensitive singer-songwriter
  • Brought a more personal and introspective form of songwriting to American pop radio
  • Has one of the warmest and most pleasing voices in all of pop music history
  • Provided a soothing balm for radio listeners with his gentle tales of love and devotion during the post-Sixties comedown
  • His 1976 collection Greatest Hits is one of the biggest-selling albums of all time
  • Helped the rock nostalgia trend by re-recording several soul and R&B classics in his own style
  • With girlfriend Carly Simon, epitomized the soft-rock couple of the Seventies

Early years:

A guitarist since the age of twelve, James Taylor only started to think about being a musician full-time when he met guitarist Danny Kortchmar while his family summered in Martha's Vineyard. After a short stay in a New York psych hospital for depression, he and Danny formed a folk band called The Flying Machine. But Taylor was by this time fighting a heroin addiction as well, and the band disbanded, leaving Taylor to move to London in a last-ditch attempt to break the habit. While there, he submitted a demo tape to Peter Asher, formerly of Peter and Gordon and now scouting talent for the Beatles' new label, Apple.

Success:

His first album, entitled simply James Taylor, was not a success, but it did get him noticed, and after a return to the States to kick heroin once and for all, and after being sidelined by a motorcycle accident, Taylor was signed by Warner Bros. Soon, his hit "Fire and Rain," about his stay in the psych ward, rocketed up the charts, signaling a new openness and thoughtfulness in American radio listeners' tastes; before long, he was seen as the head of the singer-songwriter movement, and "Carolina In My Mind," a song from his failed debut, even became a hit on the back of that success.

Later years:

Taylor remained phenomenally successful through the decade, reverting to unique covers of R&B, rock and roll, and soul standards when audiences moved on to hard rock and disco. Even as his type of music has faded from the forefront of pop music in the following decades, he's retained a very loyal and devoted following, allowing him to record when he feels like it and maintain a busy touring schedule. A Grammy favorite, he continues to place new albums in the Top Ten, even as his singles remain trapped in the Adult Contemporary section of the charts.

Other facts:

  • Was the first act signed to Apple who was not from Britain
  • Taylor's early song "Something In The Way She Moves" inspired George Harrison to write the Beatles' "Something"
  • Wrote "Rainy Day Man" about his battles with heroin
  • Starred in the 1971 movie Two-Lane Blacktop, where his co-star was the Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson
  • Is one of the possible subjects of ex-wife Carly Simon's scathing 1974 smash "You're So Vain," though many believe actor Warren Beatty is more likely
  • Has three brothers and a sister, all of whom went on to become folk-pop musicians
  • A very vocal advocate of liberal causes and politicians

Awards/Honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2000)
  • Songwriters Hall of Fame (2000)
  • GRAMMY awards (1971, 1977, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2006)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (2001)
  • Honorary doctorate, Berklee College of Music (1995)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:

Pop:

"You've Got A Friend" (1971)

Adult Contemporary:

"You've Got A Friend" (1971)
"Shower the People" (1976)
"Handy Man" (1977)

Top 10 hits:

Pop:

"Fire and Rain" (1971)
"How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" (1975)
"Handy Man" (1977)

Adult Contemporary:

"Fire And Rain" (1971)
"Long Ago And Far Away" (1972)
"Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" (1973)
"Mexico" (1975}
"Your Smiling Face" (1977}
"Up On The Roof" (1979)
"Her Town Too" (1981) with J.D. Souther
"Everyday" (1985)
"Only One" (1986)
"That's Why I'm Here" (1986)
"Little More Time With You" (1997)

Top 10 albums:

Pop:

Sweet Baby James (1970)
Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon (1971)
One Man Dog (1973)
Gorilla (1975)
JT (1977)
Flag (1979)
Dad Loves His Work (1981)
Hourglass (1997)
October Road (2002)
Covers (2008)

Other important songs: "Something In The Way She Moves," "Sweet Baby James," "Country Road," "You Can Close Your Eyes," "Walking Man," "Steamroller Blues," "Carolina In My Mind," "Only A Dream In Rio," "Hey Mister, That's Me Up On The Jukebox," "Hello Old Friend," "Never Die Young," "Traffic Jam," "Secret O' Life," "Shed A Little Light," "Everybody Has The Blues," "Millworker," "New Hymn," "Riding On A Railroad," "Copperline," "That Lonesome Road"
Covered by: George Jones, Melanie, The Isley Brothers, Wet Wet Wet, Linda Thompson, Billie Jo Spears, John Denver, Johnny Rivers, Willie Nelson, Richie Havens, Marcia Hines, Blood Sweat and Tears, Andy Williams, Edwin McCain, Jimmy Buffett, Bette Midler, Carly Simon, Cassandra Wilson, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Presley, Tom Rush, Tuck and Patti, Linda Ronstadt, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Appears in the movies: "Two-Lane Blacktop" (1971), "No Nukes" (1980), "In Our Hands" (1984)

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