James Taylor is a soft rock and R&B musician whose music has remained popular for over 30 years. Besides singing gentle and sensitive acoustic songs, he also writes music and plays the guitar. Taylor’s music spans the genres of soft rock, R&B and folk rock. Taylor has been one of the most influential musicians of his generation, inspiring many other famous musicians to pursue their musical careers. He was part of a generation of musicians that included John Denver, Carly Simon, Carole King and Jackson Browne.
James Taylor was born James Vernon Taylor on March 12, 1948 in Belmont Massachusetts. Taylor grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (home of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels). His father was the dean of the University of North Carolina Medical School. Taylor is one of five children. His brothers and sisters (Alex, Livingston, Hugh and Kate) have all been musicians at one point in their lives.
Taylor learned to play the guitar as a youth in the 1960’s. Woody Guthrie was one of the main influences on his guitar sound. He attended Milton Academy for prep school. During this time he began playing folk music with Danny Kortchmar. He eventually dropped out of Milton and formed a band with his brother Alex. He was soon hospitalized for depression. While in the hospital, he earned his GED. Once out, he formed a band called the Flying Machine with Kortchmar and other members. This band was signed to a label and released an album, but did not meet much success.
After Taylor moved to New York, he became addicted to heroine and moved back to North Carolina which his family. Eventually, he moved to London where he signed with a label and released his debut album, James Taylor. Paul McCartney and George Harrison can also be heard on a track on this album. Taylor still struggled with his drug problem and eventually moved back to the United States. After spending some time in another hospital, Taylor continued his music career. He suffered a motorcycle accident, though, where he broke both hands and had to take a hiatus from the guitar for awhile.
After recovering, Taylor signed to a new label and released his second album, Sweet Baby James. This album met much more success than his debut album, James Taylor. The success of Sweet Baby James caused fans to pay more attention to the debut album. As a result, the single “Carolina In My Mind” from James Taylor became a huge success. Taylor’s success grew. In 1971, James Taylor was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine which called Taylor the harbinger of the “singer/songwriter era.”
Taylor’s popularity then grew wildly until the 1980’s when it began to decline. He considered retiring from music until the “Rock In Rio” show in 1985. At this show, Taylor received an overwhelming reception from over 200,000 fans which inspired him to continue his career. The song “Only a Dream in Rio” pays tribute to this concert.
Besides commercial success, over the years, Taylor has played for many social causes as well. In 1979, he played at the No Nukes concert in Madison Square Garden. Taylor played with the “Vote for Change” tour in connection with the 2004 presidential election with the goal of mobilizing voters to get out and vote for John Kerry. On this tour, Taylor played with the Dixie Chicks.
Taylor has appeared as a guest voice on the television show, “The Simpsons” and on the television show, “The West Wing.” In 2004, Taylor also threw out the first pitch of Game 1 of the World Series when the Boston Red Sox played the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.
Taylor was married to singer Carly Simon. Together, they have two children, Ben and Sally. Taylor is now married to Caroline (Kim) Smedvig. Together, they have twin boys, Rufus and Henry.
Books have been published about James Taylor such as “James Taylor: Long Ago and Far Away” and “The James Taylor Encyclopedia.”
Music / Albums
Over the years, James Taylor has released many albums. These albums include: James Taylor (1968), Sweet Baby James (1970), James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine(1971), Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon(1971), One Man Dog (1972), Walking Man (1974), Gorilla (1975), In the Pocket(1976), Greatest Hits (1976), JT (1967), Flag (1979), Dad Loves His Work (1981), That’s Why I’m Here (1985), Never Die Young (1988), New Moon Shine (1991), LIVE (1993), Best LIVE (1994), Hourglass 1997), Greatest Hits Volume 2 (2000), October Road (2002), The Best of James Taylor (2003) and James Taylor: A Christmas Album (2004). Taylor’s popular single “Carolina In My Mind” first appeared on the debut album, James Taylor. Taylor ultimately won a Grammy Award for his rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend” off of his Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon Album. His rendition of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” first appeared on Gorilla. Taylor’s Greatest Hits which was released in 1976 became and remains James Taylor’s best selling album. Taylor hits called “Handy Man” and “Traffic Jam” first appeared on his album JT. Hourglass won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Album. October Road appears in two versions, one version contains a single disk and the other version is a two-disc set that includes extra songs.
James Taylor has won numerous awards and honors over the years. He has won Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Male and Best Pop Album. He also won the Grammy MusiCares Person of the Year in 2006. When Taylor won the MusiCares Person of the Year award, other influential artists joined in to pay tribute to Taylor’s musical influence over the years. These artists included Carole King, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Sheryl Crow, the Dixie Chicks, Linda Ronstadt, Alison Kraus and Keith Urban.
James Taylor has received an honorary degree in music from the Berklee College of Music. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the Chapel Hill Museum has a permanent exhibit dedicated to James Taylor. Finally, there is a bridge near Taylor’s home town that does over Morgan Creek; this bridge has been dedicated to Taylor.
Over the decades, Taylor has toured regularly and has been a popular performer in summer outdoor amphitheatres. He continues to tour. During his summer 2008 tour, he will appear at multiple venues.