James Vernon Taylor (born March 12, 1948) is an American
singer-songwriter and guitarist. A five-time
Grammy Award winner, he
was inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. He is one
of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than
100 million records worldwide.
Taylor achieved his breakthrough in 1970 with the No. 3 single "Fire
and Rain" and had his first No. 1 hit the following year with "You've
Got a Friend", a recording of Carole King's classic song. His 1976
Greatest Hits album was certified Diamond and has sold 12 million US
copies. Following his 1977 album, JT, he has retained a large audience
over the decades. Every album that he released from 1977 to 2007 sold
over 1 million copies. He enjoyed a resurgence in chart performance
during the late 1990s and 2000s, when he recorded some of his
most-awarded work (including Hourglass, October Road, and Covers). He
achieved his first number-one album in the US in 2015 with his
recording Before This World.
He is known for his popular covers of other people's songs, such as
"How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" and the aforementioned "You've
Got A Friend", as well as originals such as "Fire and Rain".
1 Early years
2.1 1966–1969: Early career
2.2 1970–1972: Fame and commercial success
2.3 1973–1976: Career ups and downs
2.4 1977–1981: Move to Columbia and continued success
2.5 1981–1996: Troubled times and new beginnings
2.6 1997–present: Comeback
3 Family and personal life
4 Awards and recognition
4.1 Grammy Awards
4.2 Other recognition
5.1 Studio albums
5.2 Other appearances
7 Further reading
8 External links
James Vernon Taylor was born at
Massachusetts General Hospital in
Boston on March 12, 1948, where his father, Isaac M. Taylor, worked as
a resident physician. His father came from a wealthy Scottish
family from the South. His mother, the former Gertrude Woodard
(1921–2015), studied singing with
Marie Sundelius at the New England
Conservatory of Music and was an aspiring opera singer before the
couple's marriage in 1946. James was the second of five
children, the others being Alex (1947–1993), Kate (born 1949),
Livingston (born 1950), and Hugh (born 1952).
In 1951, his family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, when
Isaac took a job as an assistant professor of medicine at the
North Carolina School of Medicine. They built a
house in the Morgan Creek area off the present Morgan Creek Road,
which was sparsely populated. James would later say, "Chapel Hill,
the Piedmont, the outlying hills, were tranquil, rural, beautiful, but
quiet. Thinking of the red soil, the seasons, the way things smelled
down there, I feel as though my experience of coming of age there was
more a matter of landscape and climate than people." James
attended public primary school in Chapel Hill. Isaac's career
prospered, but he was frequently away from home, on military service
Bethesda Naval Hospital
Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, or as part of Operation Deep
Antarctica in 1955 and 1956. Isaac Taylor later rose to
become dean of the UNC School of Medicine from 1964 to 1971.
Beginning in 1953, the Taylors spent summers on Martha's Vineyard.
James first learned to play the cello as a child in
North Carolina and
switched to the guitar in 1960. His guitar style evolved,
influenced by hymns, carols, and the music of Woody Guthrie, and his
technique derived from his bass clef-oriented cello training and from
experimenting on his sister Kate's keyboards: "My style was a
finger-picking style that was meant to be like a piano, as if my thumb
were my left hand, and my first, second, and third fingers were my
right hand." He began attending Milton Academy, a preparatory
boarding school in
Massachusetts in fall 1961. Summering before then
with his family on Martha's Vineyard, he met Danny Kortchmar, an
aspiring teenage guitarist from Larchmont, New York. The two began
listening to and playing blues and folk music together, and Kortchmar
quickly realized that Taylor's singing had a "natural sense of
phrasing, every syllable beautifully in time. I knew James had that
thing." Taylor wrote his first song on guitar at 14, and he
continued to learn the instrument effortlessly. By the summer of
1963, he and Kortchmar were playing coffeehouses around the Vineyard,
billed as "Jamie & Kootch".
Taylor faltered during his junior year at Milton, feeling uneasy in
the high-pressure college prep environment despite good scholastic
performance. The Milton headmaster would later say, "James was
more sensitive and less goal-oriented than most students of his
day." He returned home to
North Carolina to finish out the
semester at Chapel Hill High School. There, he joined a band
formed by his brother Alex called The Corsayers (later The Fabulous
Corsairs), playing electric guitar; in 1964, they cut a single in
Raleigh that featured James's song "Cha Cha Blues" on the B-side.
Having lost touch with his former school friends in North Carolina,
Taylor returned to Milton for his senior year.
There, Taylor started applying to colleges but soon descended into
depression; his grades collapsed, he slept 20 hours each day, and he
felt part of a "life that [he was] unable to lead." In late
1965 he committed himself to the renowned
McLean Hospital in Belmont,
Massachusetts, where he was treated with
Thorazine and where the
organized days began to give him a sense of time and
structure. As the
Vietnam War escalated, Taylor received a
psychological rejection from
Selective Service System
Selective Service System when he appeared
before them with two white-suited McLean assistants and was
uncommunicative. Taylor earned a high school diploma in 1966 from
the hospital's associated Arlington School. He would later view
his nine-month stay at McLean as "a lifesaver... like a pardon or like
a reprieve," and both his brother Livingston and sister Kate would
later be patients and students there as well. As for his mental
health struggles, Taylor would think of them as innate and say: "It's
an inseparable part of my personality that I have these feelings."
1966–1969: Early career
At Kortchmar's urging, Taylor checked himself out of McLean and
Elon University for a semester before moving to New York City
to form a band. They recruited Joel O'Brien, formerly of
Kortchmar's old band King Bees, to play drums, and Taylor's childhood
friend Zachary Wiesner (son of noted academic Jerome Wiesner) to play
bass, and after Taylor rejected the notion of naming the group after
him, they called themselves the Flying Machine. They played
songs that Taylor had written at and about McLean, such as "Knocking
'Round the Zoo", "Don't
Talk Now", and "The
Blues Is Just a Bad
Dream". In some other songs, Taylor romanticized his life, but
he was plagued by self-doubt. By summer 1966, they were performing
regularly at the high-visibility Night Owl Cafe in Greenwich Village,
alongside acts such as the Turtles and Lothar and the Hand People.
Taylor associated with a motley group of people and began using
heroin, to Kortchmar's dismay, and wrote the "Paint It
Black"–influenced "Rainy Day Man" to depict his drug
experience. In a late 1966 hasty recording session, the group
cut a single, Taylor's "Night Owl," backed with his "Brighten Your
Night with My Day". Released on Jay Gee Records, a subsidiary of
Jubilee Records, it received some radio airplay in the Northeast,
but only charted at #102 nationally. Other songs had been recorded
during the same session, but Jubilee declined to go forward with an
album. After a series of poorly-chosen appearances outside New
York, culminating with a three-week stay at a failing nightspot in
Freeport, Bahamas for which they were never paid, the Flying Machine
broke up. (A UK band with the same name emerged in 1969 with the
hit song "Smile a Little Smile for Me". The New York band's recordings
were later released in 1971 as
James Taylor and the Original Flying
Taylor would later say of this New York period, "I learned a lot about
music and too much about drugs." Indeed, his drug use had
developed into full-blown heroin addiction during the final Flying
Machine period: "I just fell into it, since it was as easy to get high
in the Village as get a drink." He hung out in Washington Square
Park, playing guitar to ward off depression and then passing out,
letting runaways and criminals stay at his apartment. Finally out
of money and abandoned by his manager, he made a desperate call one
night to his father. Isaac Taylor flew to New York and staged a
rescue, renting a car and driving all night back to North Carolina
with James and his possessions. Taylor spent six months getting
treatment and making a tentative recovery; he also required a throat
operation to fix vocal cords damaged from singing too harshly.
Taylor decided to try being a solo act with a change of scenery. In
late 1967, funded by a small family inheritance, he moved to London,
living in various areas: Notting Hill, Belgravia, and Chelsea.
After recording some demos in Soho, his friend Kortchmar gave him his
next big break. Kortchmar used his association with the King Bees (who
once opened for Peter and Gordon), to connect Taylor to Peter Asher.
Asher was A&R head for the Beatles' newly formed label Apple
Records. Taylor gave a demo tape of songs, including "Something In
The Way She Moves," to Asher, who then played the demo for Beatles
Paul McCartney and George Harrison. McCartney remembers his first
impression: "I just heard his voice and his guitar and I thought he
was great [...] and he came and played live, so it was just like,
'Wow, he's great.'" Taylor became the first non-British act signed
to Apple, and he credits Asher for "opening the door" to his
singing career. Taylor said of Asher, who later became his
manager, "I knew from the first time that we met that he was the right
person to steer my career. He had this determination in his eye that I
had never seen in anybody before.":70
Living chaotically in various places with various women, Taylor wrote
additional material, including "Carolina in My Mind", and rehearsed
with a new backing band. Taylor recorded what would become his
first album from July to October 1968, at Trident Studios, at the same
Beatles were recording The White Album. McCartney and
George Harrison guested on "Carolina in My Mind", whose
lyric "holy host of others standing around me" referred to the
Beatles, and the title phrase of Taylor's "Something in the Way She
Moves" provided the lyrical starting point for Harrison's classic
"Something". McCartney and Asher brought in arranger Richard
Anthony Hewson to add both orchestrations to several of the songs and
unusual "link" passages between them; they would receive a mixed
reception, at best.
"James had been through so much by the time he was twenty that he had
so much to express in his music. Other young artists of his age whom I
worked with sang about how good or bad life was but really had no idea
what they were singing about. James was already singing with the
conviction of a singer much older than himself. Everything that he had
already been through was evident in his songwriting."
Peter Asher, Taylor's manager:66
During the recording sessions, Taylor fell back into his drug habit by
using heroin and methedrine. He underwent physeptone treatment in
a British program, returned to New York and was hospitalized there,
and then finally committed himself to the
Austen Riggs Center
Austen Riggs Center in
Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which emphasized cultural and historical
factors in trying to treat difficult psychiatric disorders.
Meanwhile, Apple released his debut album, James Taylor, in December
1968 in the UK and February 1969 in the US. Critical reception was
generally positive, including a complimentary
Jon Landau review in
Rolling Stone who said that "this album is the coolest breath of fresh
air I've inhaled in a good long while. It knocks me out." The
record's commercial potential suffered from Taylor's inability to
promote it because of his hospitalization, and it sold poorly;
"Carolina in My Mind" was released as a single but failed to chart in
the UK and only reached #118 on the U.S. charts.
In July 1969, Taylor headlined a six-night stand at the Troubadour in
Los Angeles. On July 20, he performed at the
Newport Folk Festival
Newport Folk Festival as
the last act and was cheered by thousands of fans who stayed in the
rain to hear him. Shortly thereafter, he broke both hands and
both feet in a motorcycle accident on
Martha's Vineyard and was forced
to stop playing for several months. However, while recovering, he
continued to write songs and in October 1969 signed a new deal with
Warner Bros. Records.
1970–1972: Fame and commercial success
Taylor in the early 1970s
Once he had recovered, Taylor moved to California, keeping Asher as
his manager and record producer. In December 1969, he held the
recording sessions for his second album there. Titled Sweet Baby
James, and featuring the participation of Carole King, the album was
released in February 1970 and was Taylor's critical and popular
triumph, buoyed by the single "Fire and Rain," a song about both
Taylor's experiences attempting to break his drug habit by undergoing
treatment in psychiatric institutions and the suicide of his friend,
Suzanne Schnerr. Both the album and the single reached #3 on the
Billboard charts, with
Sweet Baby James selling more than 1.5 million
copies in its first year and eventually more than 3 million in the
United States alone.
Sweet Baby James was received at its time as a
folk-rock masterpiece, an album that effectively showcased Taylor's
talents to the mainstream public, marking a direction he would take in
following years. It earned several
Grammy Award nominations including
one for Album of the Year. It went on to be listed at #103 on Rolling
Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003, with "Fire and Rain"
listed as #227 on
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in
Two-Lane Blacktop in Boswell, Oklahoma
During the time that
Sweet Baby James was released, Taylor appeared
Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys in a
Monte Hellman film, Two-Lane
Blacktop. In October 1970, he performed with Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs,
and the Canadian band Chilliwack at a
Vancouver benefit concert that
funded Greenpeace's protests of 1971 nuclear weapons tests by the US
Atomic Energy Commission at Amchitka, Alaska; this performance was
released in album format in 2009 as Amchitka, The 1970 Concert That
Launched Greenpeace. In January 1971, sessions for Taylor's next album
His career success so far and appeal to female fans of various ages
piqued tremendous interest in him, prompting a March 1, 1971, Time
magazine cover story of him as "the face of new rock." It compared
his strong-but-brooding persona to that of Wuthering Heights'
Heathcliff and to The Sorrows of Young Werther, and said, "Taylor's
use of elemental imagery—darkness and sunlight, references to roads
traveled and untraveled, to fears spoken and left unsaid—reaches a
level both of intimacy and controlled emotion rarely achieved in
purely pop music." One of the writers described his look as "a
cowboy Jesus," to which Taylor later replied, "I thought I was trying
to look like George Harrison." Released in April, Mud Slide Slim
and the Blue Horizon also gained critical acclaim and contained
Taylor's biggest hit single in the US, a version of the Carole King
standard "You've Got a Friend" (featuring backing vocals by Joni
Mitchell), which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late July. The
follow-up single, "Long Ago and Far Away," also made the Top 40 and
reached #4 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. The album itself
reached #2 on the album charts, which would be Taylor's highest
position ever until the release of his 2015 album, Before This World,
which went to #1, superseding Taylor Swift.
In early 1972, Taylor won his first
Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal
Performance, Male, for "You've Got a Friend"; King also won Song of
the Year for the same song in that ceremony. The album went on to sell
2.5 million copies in the United States.
November 1972 heralded the release of Taylor's fourth album, One Man
Dog. A concept album primarily recorded in his home recording studio,
it featured a cameo by
Linda Ronstadt along with Carole King, Carly
Simon, and John McLaughlin. The album consisted of eighteen short
pieces of music put together. Reception was generally lukewarm and,
despite making the Top 10 of the Billboard Album Charts, its overall
sales were disappointing. The lead single, "Don't Let Me Be Lonely
Tonight," peaked at #14 on the Hot 100, and the follow-up, "One Man
Parade," barely reached the Top 75. Almost simultaneously, Taylor
married fellow singer-songwriter
Carly Simon on November 3, in a small
ceremony at her Murray Hill, Manhattan, apartment. A post-concert
party following a Taylor performance at
Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall turned
into a large-scale wedding party, and the Simon-Taylor marriage would
find much public attention over the following years. They had two
children, Sarah Maria "Sally" Taylor, born January 7, 1974, and
Benjamin Simon "Ben" Taylor, born January 22, 1977. During their
marriage, the couple would guest on each other's albums and have two
hit singles as duet partners: a cover of Inez & Charlie Foxx's
"Mockingbird" and a cover of The Everly Brothers's "Devoted to You."
1973–1976: Career ups and downs
Taylor spent most of 1973 enjoying his new life as a married man and
did not return to the recording studio until January 1974, when
sessions for his fifth album began.
Walking Man was released in June
and featured appearances of Paul and Linda McCartney and guitarist
David Spinozza. The album was a critical and commercial disaster and
was his first album to miss the Top 5 since his contract with Warner.
It received poor reviews and sold only 300,000 copies in the United
States. The title track failed to appear on the Top 100.
However, James Taylor's artistic fortunes spiked again in 1975 when
the Gold album Gorilla reached #6 and provided one of his biggest hit
singles, a cover version of Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be
Loved by You)", featuring wife Carly on backing vocals and reached #5
in America and #1 in Canada. On the Billboard Adult Contemporary
chart, the track also reached the top, and the follow-up single, the
feelgood "Mexico" also reached the Top 5 of that list. A well-received
album, Gorilla showcased Taylor's electric, lighter side that was
evident on Walking Man. However, it was arguably a more consistent and
fresher-sounding Taylor, with classics such as "Mexico", "Wandering"
and "Angry Blues". It also featured a song about his daughter Sally,
Gorilla was followed in 1976 by In the Pocket, Taylor's last studio
album to be released under Warner Bros. Records. The album found him
with many colleagues and friends, including Art Garfunkel, David
Bonnie Raitt and
Stevie Wonder (who co-wrote a song with
Taylor and contributed a harmonica solo). A melodic album, it was
highlighted with the single "Shower the People", an enduring classic
that hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and almost hit the Top 20
of the Pop Charts. However, the album was not well received, reaching
#16 and being criticized, particularly by Rolling Stone. Still, In The
Pocket went on to be certified gold.
With the close of Taylor's contract with Warner, in November, the
label released Greatest Hits, the album that comprised most of his
best work between 1970 and 1976. With time, it became his best-selling
album ever. It was certified 11× Platinum in the US, earned a Diamond
certification by the RIAA, and eventually sold close to 20 million
1977–1981: Move to Columbia and continued success
In 1977 Taylor signed with Columbia Records. Between March and April,
he quickly recorded his first album for the label. JT, released that
June, gave Taylor his best reviews since Sweet Baby James, earning a
Grammy nomination for Album of the Year in 1978. Peter Herbst of
Rolling Stone was particularly favorable to the album, of which he
wrote in its August 11, 1977 issue, "JT is the least stiff and by far
the most various album Taylor has done. That's not meant to criticize
Taylor's earlier efforts.... But it's nice to hear him sounding so
healthy." JT reached #4 on the Billboard charts and sold more than
3 million copies in the
United States alone. The album's Triple
Platinum status ties it with
Sweet Baby James as Taylor's all-time
biggest selling studio album. It was propelled by the successful cover
of Jimmy Jones's and Otis Blackwell's "Handy Man," which hit #1 on
Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart and reached #4 on the Hot 100,
earning Taylor another
Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal
Performance for his cover version. The song also topped the Canadian
charts. The success of the album propelled the release of two further
singles; the up-tempo pop "Your Smiling Face," an enduring live
favorite, reached the American Top 20; however, "Honey Don't Leave
Danny Kortchmar wrote and composed for Taylor, did not
enjoy much success, reaching only #61.
Back in the forefront of popular music, Taylor collaborated with Paul
Art Garfunkel in the recording of a cover of Sam Cooke's
"Wonderful World," which reached the Top 20 in the U.S. and topped the
AC charts in early 1978. After briefly working on Broadway, he took a
one-year break, reappearing in the summer of 1979, with the
cover-studded Platinum album titled Flag, featuring a Top 30 version
of Gerry Goffin's and Carole King's "Up on the Roof." (Two selections
from Flag, "Millworker" and "Brother Trucker", were featured on the
PBS production of the Broadway musical based on Studs Terkel's
non-fiction book Working, which Terkel himself hosted, and Taylor
himself appeared in that production as a trucker; he performed
"Brother Trucker" in character.) Taylor also appeared on the No Nukes
concert in Madison Square Garden, where he made a memorable live
performance of "Mockingbird" with his wife Carly. The concert appeared
on both the No Nukes album and film.
On December 7, 1980, Taylor had an encounter with Mark David Chapman,
who would assassinate John Lennon just one day later. Taylor told the
BBC in 2010: "The guy had sort of pinned me to the wall and was
glistening with maniacal sweat and talking some freak speak about what
he was going to do and his stuff with how John was interested, and he
was going to get in touch with John Lennon. And it was surreal to
actually have contact with the guy 24 hours before he shot John." The
next night, Taylor, who lived in the next building from Lennon, heard
the assassination occur. Taylor commented: "I heard him shoot—five,
just as quick as you could pull the trigger, about five
In March 1981, Taylor released the album
Dad Loves His Work whose
themes concerned his relationship with his father, the course his
ancestors had taken, and the effect that he and Simon had on each
other. The album was another Platinum success, reaching #10 and
providing Taylor's final real hit single in a duet with J. D. Souther,
"Her Town Too," which reached #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart and
#11 on the Billboard Hot 100.
1981–1996: Troubled times and new beginnings
At Winterfest, 1985
Simon announced her separation from Taylor in September 1981 saying,
"Our needs are different; it seem[s] impossible to stay together" and
their divorce finalized in 1983. Their breakup was highly
publicized. At the time, Taylor was living on
West End Avenue
West End Avenue in
Manhattan and on a methadone maintenance program to cure him of his
drug addiction. Over the course of four months starting in
September 1983, spurred on in part by the deaths of his friends John
Dennis Wilson and in part by the desire to be a better
father to his children Sally and Ben, he discontinued methadone and
overcame his heroin habit.
Taylor had thoughts of retiring by the time he played the Rock in Rio
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro in January 1985. He was encouraged by
the nascent democracy in
Brazil at the time, buoyed by the positive
reception he got from the large crowd and other musicians, and
musically energized by the sounds and nature of Brazilian music.
"I had... sort of bottomed-out in a drug habit, my marriage with Carly
had dissolved, and I had basically been depressed and lost for a
while," he recalled in 1995. "I sort of hit a low spot. I was asked to
go down to
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro to play in this festival down there. We put
the band together and went down and it was just an amazing response. I
played to 300,000 people. They not only knew my music, they knew
things about it and were interested in aspects of it that to that
point had only interested me. To have that kind of validation right
about then was really what I needed. It helped get me back on
track." The song "Only a Dream in Rio" was written in tribute to
that night, with lines like I was there that very day and my heart
came back alive. The October 1985 album, That's Why I'm Here, from
which that song came, started a series of studio recordings that,
while spaced further apart than his previous records, showed a more
consistent level of quality and fewer covers, most notably the Buddy
Holly song "Everyday", released as a single reached No. 61. On the
album track "Only You," the backing vocals were performed by an all
star duo of
Joni Mitchell and Don Henley.
Taylor's next albums were partially successful; in 1988, he released
Never Die Young, highlighted with the charting title track, and in
1991, the platinum
New Moon Shine provided Taylor some popular songs
with the melancholic "Copperline" and the upbeat "(I've Got to) Stop
Thinkin' About That", both hit singles on Adult Contemporary radio. In
the late 1980s, he began touring regularly, especially on the summer
amphitheater circuit. His later concerts feature songs spanning his
career and are marked by the musicianship of his band and backup
singers. The 1993 two-disc Live album captures this, with a highlight
being Arnold McCuller's descants in the codas of "Shower the People"
and "I Will Follow". In 1995, Taylor performed the role of the Lord in
Randy Newman's Faust.
Taylor in concert at DeVos Hall, Grand Rapids, Michigan – April 2006
After six years since his last studio album, in 1997 Taylor released
Hourglass, an introspective album that gave him the best critical
reviews in almost twenty years. The album had much of its focus on
Taylor's troubled past and family. "Jump Up Behind Me" paid tribute to
his father's rescue of him after The Flying Machine days, and the long
drive from New York City back to his home in Chapel Hill. "Enough
To Be on Your Way" was inspired by the alcoholism-related death of his
brother Alex earlier in the decade. The themes were also inspired
by Taylor and Walker's divorce, which took place in 1996. Rolling
Stone Magazine found that "one of the themes of this record is
disbelief", while Taylor told the magazine that it was "spirituals for
agnostics". Critics embraced the dark themes on the album, and
Hourglass was a commercial success, reaching No. 9 on the Billboard
200 (Taylor's first Top 10 album in sixteen years) and also provided a
big adult contemporary hit on "Little More Time With You". The album
also gave Taylor his first Grammy since JT, when he was honored with
Best Pop Album in 1998.
Flanked by two greatest hit releases, Taylor's Platinum-certified
October Road appeared in 2002 to a receptive audience. It featured a
number of quiet instrumental accompaniments and passages. Overall, it
found Taylor in a more peaceful frame of mind; rather than facing a
crisis now, Taylor said in an interview that "I thought I'd passed the
midpoint of my life when I was 17." The album appeared in two
versions, a single-disc version and a "limited edition" two-disc
version which contained three extra songs including a duet with Mark
Knopfler, "Sailing to Philadelphia", which also appeared on the title
track of Knopfler's album by the same name. Also in 2002, Taylor
teamed with bluegrass musician
Alison Krauss in singing "The Boxer" at
Kennedy Center Honors
Kennedy Center Honors Tribute to Paul Simon. They later recorded
Louvin Brothers duet, "How's the World Treating You?" In 2004,
after he chose not to renew his record contract with Columbia/Sony, he
released James Taylor: A Christmas Album with distribution through
Taylor performing at Tanglewood
Always visibly active in environmental and liberal causes, in October
2004, Taylor joined the
Vote for Change
Vote for Change tour playing a series of
concerts in American swing states. These concerts were organized by
MoveOn.org with the goal of mobilizing people to vote for John Kerry
George W. Bush
George W. Bush in that year's presidential campaign.
Taylor's appearances were joint performances with the Dixie Chicks.
Taylor performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Game 2 of the World
Boston on October 24, 2004, and again on October 25, 2007
and "America" before the game on October 24, 2013. In December 2004,
he appeared as himself in an episode of
The West Wing
The West Wing entitled "A
Change Is Gonna Come". He sang Sam Cooke's classic "A Change Is Gonna
Come" at an event honoring an artist played by Taylor's wife Caroline.
Later on, he appeared on CMT's Crossroads alongside the Dixie Chicks.
In early 2006,
MusiCares honored Taylor with performances of his songs
by an array of notable musicians. Before a performance by the Dixie
Chicks, lead singer
Natalie Maines acknowledged that he had always
been one of their musical heroes and had, for them, lived up to their
once-imagined reputation of him. They performed his song, "Shower
the People", with a surprise appearance by Arnold McCuller, who has
sung backing vocals on Taylor's live tours and albums for many years.
In the fall of 2006, Taylor released a repackaged and slightly
different version of his Hallmark Christmas album, now entitled James
Taylor at Christmas, and distributed by Columbia/Sony. In 2006, Taylor
performed Randy Newman's song "Our Town" for the
Disney animated film
Cars. The song was nominated for the 2007
Academy Award for the Best
Original Song. On January 1, 2007, Taylor headlined the inaugural
concert at the
Times Union Center
Times Union Center in Albany, New York, honoring newly
Governor of New York
Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer.
Taylor's next album, One Man Band was released on CD and DVD in
November 2007 on Starbucks'
Hear Music Label, where he joined with
Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell. The introspective album grew out of
a three-year One Man Band Tour tour of the
United States and Europe,
featuring some of Taylor's most beloved songs and anecdotes about
their creative origins—accompanied solely by the "one man band" of
his longtime pianist/keyboardist, Larry Goldings. The digital discrete
5.1 surround sound mix of One Man Band won a TEC Award for best
surround sound recording in 2008.
Taylor in April 2011
On November 28–30, 2007, Taylor, accompanied by his original band
and Carole King, headlined a series of six shows at the Troubadour.
The appearances marked the 50th anniversary of the venue, where
Taylor, King and many others, such as Tom Waits, Neil Diamond, and
Elton John, performed early in their music careers. Proceeds from the
concert went to benefit the Natural Resources Defense Council,
MusiCares, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, and the Los Angeles Regional
Foodbank, a member of America's Second Harvest, the nation's Food Bank
Network. Parts of the performance shown on
CBS Sunday Morning
CBS Sunday Morning in the
December 23, 2007, broadcast showed Taylor alluding to his early drug
problems by saying, "I played here a number of times in the 70s,
allegedly". Taylor has used versions of this joke on other occasions,
and it appears as part of his One Man Band DVD and tour performances.
Carole King performing "You've Got a Friend" together
Troubadour Reunion Tour
Troubadour Reunion Tour in 2010
In December 2007,
James Taylor at Christmas was nominated for a Grammy
Award. In January 2008, Taylor recorded approximately 20 songs by
others for a new album with a band including Luis Conte, Michael
Landau, Lou Marini, Arnold McCuller, Jimmy Johnson, David Lasley, Walt
Fowler, Andrea Zonn, Kate Markowitz,
Steve Gadd and Larry Goldings.
The resulting live-in-studio album, named Covers, was released in
September 2008. The album forays into country and soul while being
the latest proof that Taylor is a more versatile singer than his best
known hits might suggest. The Covers sessions stretched to include "Oh
What a Beautiful Morning", from the musical Oklahoma, a song that his
grandmother had caught him singing over and over at the top of his
lungs when he was seven years old. Meanwhile, in summer 2008,
Taylor and this band toured 34 North American cities with a tour
James Taylor and His Band of Legends. An additional album,
called Other Covers, came out in April 2009, containing songs that
were recorded during the same sessions as the original Covers but had
not been put out to the full public yet.
During October 19–21, 2008, Taylor performed a series of free
concerts in five
North Carolina cities in support of Barack Obama's
presidential bid. On Sunday, January 18, 2009, he performed at
the We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln
Memorial, singing "Shower the People" with
John Legend and Jennifer
Nettles of Sugarland. Taylor performed on the final The Tonight
Show with Jay Leno on May 29, 2009, distinguishing himself further as
the final musician to appear in Leno's original 17-year run.
On September 8, 2009, Taylor made an appearance at the 24th-season
premiere block party of
The Oprah Winfrey Show
The Oprah Winfrey Show on Chicago's Michigan
On January 1, 2010, Taylor sang the American national anthem at the
NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park, while
Daniel Powter sang the
Canadian national anthem.
On March 7, 2010, Taylor sang the Beatles' "In My Life" in tribute to
deceased artists at the 82nd Academy Awards.
Taylor at the October 16, 2011, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
In March 2010, he commenced the
Troubadour Reunion Tour
Troubadour Reunion Tour with Carole
King and members of his original band, including Russ Kunkel, Leland
Sklar, and Danny Kortchmar. They played shows in Australia, New
Zealand, Japan and North America, with the final night being at the
Honda Center, in Anaheim, California. The tour was a major commercial
success, and in some locations found Taylor playing arenas instead of
his usual theaters or amphitheaters. Ticket sales amounted to over
700,000 and the tour grossed over $59 million. It was one of the most
successful tours of the year.
On September 11, 2011, Taylor performed "You Can Close Your Eyes" in
New York City at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum for
the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
On November 22, 2011, Taylor performed "Fire and Rain" with Taylor
Swift at the last concert of her
Speak Now World Tour
Speak Now World Tour in Madison
Square Garden, as well as her own song, "Fifteen". Then, on July 2,
2012, Swift appeared as Taylor's special guest in a concert at
Taylor Swift was named after singer James Taylor.
On April 24, 2013, Taylor performed at the memorial service for slain
MIT police officer Sean Collier, who was killed by Tamerlan and
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the men responsible for the
bombing. Taylor was accompanied by the MIT Symphony Orchestra and
three MIT a cappella groups while performing his songs "The Water is
Wide" and "Shower the People."
He was active in support of Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign,
and opened the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He performed
"America the Beautiful" at the President's second inauguration.
After a 45-year wait, James earned his first No. 1 album on the
Billboard 200 chart with Before This World. The album, which was
released on June 16 through Concord Records, arrived on top the chart
of July 4, 2015, more than 45 years after Taylor arrived on the list
Sweet Baby James (on the March 14, 1970 list). The album launched
Billboard 200 with 97,000 equivalent album units earned in
the week ending June 21, 2015 according to Nielsen Music. Of its
start, pure album sales were 96,000 copies sold, Taylor's best debut
week for an album since 2002's October Road.
Family and personal life
Taylor and wife Caroline "Kim" Smedvig, seen in 2008
Taylor's four siblings (Alex, Livingston, Hugh, and Kate) have also
been musicians with recorded albums. Livingston is still an active
musician; Kate was active in the 1970s but did not record another
album until 2003; Hugh operates a bed-and-breakfast with his wife, The
Outermost Inn in Aquinnah on Martha's Vineyard; and Alex died in 1993
on James's birthday.
After his divorce from
Carly Simon in 1983, Taylor married actress
Kathryn Walker on December 14, 1985 at the Cathedral of St. John the
Divine in New York. She had helped him get off heroin, but the
marriage ended in divorce in 1996.
On February 18, 2001, at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Boston, Taylor
wed for the third time, marrying Caroline ("Kim") Smedvig, the
director of public relations and marketing for the
Orchestra. They had begun dating in 1995, when they met as he
John Williams and the
Boston Pops Orchestra. Part of
their relationship was worked into the album October Road, on the song
"On the 4th of July". The couple reside in the town of Washington,
Massachusetts, with their twin boys, Rufus and Henry, born in
Sally and Ben, his children with Carly Simon, have also embarked on
musical careers. Taylor's children with his current wife express
little interest in music. After they were born, Taylor moved with his
family to Lenox, Massachusetts.
Awards and recognition
1971: Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, "You've Got a Friend"
1977: Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, "Handy Man"
1998: Best Pop Album, Hourglass
2001: Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, "Don't Let Me Be Lonely
2003: Best Country Collaboration With Vocals, "How's the World
Treating You" with Alison Krauss
2006: Grammy Award-sponsored
MusiCares Person of the Year. At a black
tie ceremony held in Los Angeles, musicians from several eras paid
tribute to Taylor by performing his songs, often prefacing them with
remarks on his influence on their decisions to become musicians.
Artists include Carole King, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Taj Mahal, Dr.
John, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Sheryl Crow,
India.Arie, the Dixie Chicks, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, and Keith
Paul Simon performed as well, although he was not included in
the televised program; Taylor's brother Livingston appeared on stage
as a "backup singer" for the finale, along with Taylor's twin boys,
Rufus and Henry.
James Taylor Bridge, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
1985: Musical director for the movie Smooth Talk, 1985.
1995: Honorary doctorate of music from the Berklee College of Music,
2000: Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2000.
2000: Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, 2000.
Chapel Hill Museum
Chapel Hill Museum in
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Chapel Hill, North Carolina opened a
permanent exhibit dedicated to Taylor. At the same occasion the
US-15-501 highway bridge over Morgan Creek, near the site of the
Taylor family home and mentioned in Taylor's song "Copperline", was
named in honor of Taylor.
2004: George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement,
UCLA Spring Sing.
2004: Ranked 84th in Rolling Stone's list of "100 Greatest Artists of
2009: Honorary Doctorate of Music from Williams College, Williamstown,
2009: Inducted into the
North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
2010: Inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame
2012: Received the Montréal Jazz Spirit Award
2012: Named "Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" by the
Ministry of Culture & Communication of France.
Emmy Award for The
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Mormon Tabernacle Choir Presents an Evening
with James Taylor
2015: Presidential Medal of Freedom
2016: Kennedy Center Honors
James Taylor discography
James Taylor (1968)
Sweet Baby James (1970)
Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon (1971)
One Man Dog (1972)
Walking Man (1974)
In The Pocket (1976)
Dad Loves His Work (1981)
That's Why I'm Here (1985)
Never Die Young
Never Die Young (1988)
New Moon Shine (1991)
October Road (2002)
Before This World
Before This World (2015)
Taylor performing with
Vince Gill (right) and
Amy Grant (left) at
Tanglewood in 2011
He provided acoustic guitar accompaniment for several tracks on Joni
Mitchell's 1971 album Blue.
He played the banjo on Neil Young's "Old Man".
He provided harmony background vocals for George Jones's 1978 version
of Bartender's Blues. Taylor was thinking of Jones' style when he
wrote the song and it was a thrill for him to get to sing with Jones
on it. On the original 1977
James Taylor recording of the song Linda
Rondstadt sang harmony.
He appeared as a guest musician on Steve Winwood's 1986 album Back in
the High Life, performing harmony vocals on the song "Back in the High
He provided vocals, acoustic guitar on the sixth solo studio album by
Sting, Brand New Day (1999).
He provided a guest voice to
The Simpsons episode "Deep Space Homer"
where he played some of his songs to Homer, Buzz Aldrin, and Race
Bannon when they were in space. He also appeared later on in the
series when the family put together a jigsaw puzzle. His face was the
missing final piece.
Performed "Second Star to the Right" on Stay Awake: Various
Interpretations of Music from Vintage
Disney Films in 1988.
Taylor performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Game 2 of the World
Boston on October 25, 2007, at Game 2 of the 2013 World
Boston n October 24, 2013, at Game 1 of the 2008 NBA
Boston on June 5, 2008, and at the NHL's Winter Classic game
Philadelphia Flyers and
He appeared on
Sesame Street performing the song "Your Smiling Face"
although the song was sung "Your Grouchy Face" as he sang it to Oscar
the Grouch. He also appeared on the
Sesame Street video compilation
Silly Songs, and the album In Harmony: A
Sesame Street Record,
performing the song "Jellyman Kelly".
Has appeared on NBC's
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live six times as a musical guest
He appeared on
The West Wing
The West Wing where he played Sam Cooke's "A Change is
He appeared on The Johnny Cash Show, singing "Sweet Baby James", "Fire
and Rain", and "Country Road", on February 17, 1971.
His song "Fire and Rain" was in the movie
Remember the Titans
Remember the Titans and the
movie Running on Empty in 1988.
He provided vocals for the song "First Me, Second Me" by the Italian
band Elio e le Storie Tese.
He made his debut for his 24th album
Other Covers on The Oprah Winfrey
Show on April 10, 2009.
He appeared on the final of Star Académie, the Quebec version of
American Idol, on April 13, 2009.
On May 29, 2009, he made a guest appearance and sang "Sweet Baby
James" on the final episode of
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno before
Leno was replaced by Conan O'Brien.
Taylor appeared briefly in the 2009 movie Funny People, where he
played "Carolina in My Mind" for a MySpace corporate event as the
opening act for the main character.
He appeared in 2011 in the ABC comedy Mr. Sunshine as the ex-husband
of the character played by Allison Janney; they exchange some sardonic
dialogue and then perform a duet of sorts on Leon Russell's 1970
classic "A Song for You".
On January 19, 2012 Taylor performed a version of "Carolina in my
Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report.
He is mentioned in Taylor Swift's single "Begin Again".
On April 24, 2013 he performed at an outdoor memorial service in
Cambridge, MA, honoring slain MIT police officer Sean Collier. Officer
Collier was shot on the night of April 18, 2013, allegedly by the
perpetrators of the April 15, 2013,
Boston Marathon bombing, who were
being hunted by police and federal authorities.
On September 6 and 7, 2013, he performed with the
Utah Symphony and
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the Thirtieth Anniversary O.C. Tanner
Gift of Music Gala Concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake
City. He called the choir "a national treasure" In addition to
the symphony and choir he was backed by some of his touring band
pianist Charles Floyd, bassist Jimmy Johnson and Percussionist Nick
In December 2016 Taylor announced that he cancelled his upcoming
February 2017 concert in the Philippines. He stated that although "I
don't think of my music as being particularly political but sometimes
one is called upon to make a political stand." The cancellation was in
protest of alleged extrajudicial killings by Philippine President
Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.
He performed at the 68th
Sanremo Music Festival
Sanremo Music Festival in Italy in February
"It's in His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)" by Kate Taylor.
"City Lights" by Livingston Taylor.
"Mockingbird" by Carly Simon.
"(What A) Wonderful World" by Art Garfunkel, also featuring Paul
"Glory Train", "Best Little Girl", "Northern Boy" & "Relax, Enjoy
Yourself" from the
Randy Newman album "Faust".
"Our Home" with
Randy Newman from the "Cars" soundtrack.
Joni Mitchell from the
Joni Mitchell album "Shine".
"Life on the Inside" from "Doctor Selavy's Magic Theatre".
"Put on a Happy Face" with
Tony Bennett from the
Tony Bennett album
"Duets: An American Classic".
"Getting to Know You" from the compilation album "For Our Children"
Guest appearance on 2018 album, "Honey Don't Leave L.A." by Danny
Kortchmar and Immediate Family. Release date and more information is
unknown/unreleased as of 4/2/18.
He was featured on "Perfect Love" by
Marc Cohn on his eponymous debut
"Sailing to Philadelphia" along with
Mark Knopfler on his 2000 album
of the same name.
James Taylor Vinyl Records: Buy & Sell
James Taylor CDs LPs
Albums; Discography & Bio". Prex.com. March 12, 1948. Retrieved
March 3, 2011.
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James Taylor Earns His First No. 1 Album on
Billboard 200 Chart
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Boston on March 12, 1948, he moved to Chapel
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James Taylor & Carole King: Live at the Troubadour", 2007
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Wikiquote has quotations related to: James Taylor
Wikimedia Commons has media related to James Taylor.
Sweet Baby James
Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon
One Man Dog
In the Pocket
Dad Loves His Work
That's Why I'm Here
Never Die Young
New Moon Shine
Before This World
One Man Band
Live at the Troubadour
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"Carolina in My Mind"
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"Long Ago and Far Away"
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"Shower the People"
"Woman's Gotta Have It"
"Your Smiling Face"
"Honey Don't Leave L.A."
"Devoted to You" (with Carly Simon)
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"Her Town Too"
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James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine
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Isaac M. Taylor
Apple Records discography
Apple Corps v Apple Computer
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You Never Give Me Your Money
Kennedy Center Honorees (2010s)
Bill T. Jones
Carmen de Lavallade
LL Cool J
MusiCares Person of the Year
David Crosby (1991)
Bonnie Raitt (1992)
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Gloria Estefan (1994)
Tony Bennett (1995)
Quincy Jones (1996)
Phil Collins (1997)
Luciano Pavarotti (1998)
Stevie Wonder (1999)
Elton John (2000)
Paul Simon (2001)
Billy Joel (2002)
Brian Wilson (2005)
James Taylor (2006)
Don Henley (2007)
Aretha Franklin (2008)
Neil Diamond (2009)
Neil Young (2010)
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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2000
Earth, Wind & Fire (Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn, Johnny Graham,
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ISNI: 0000 0001 2023 8049
BNF: cb13922016d (data)