Category Archives: music

A Trip Around the Sun

Hard to believe it but it’s been a year since I took the fateful leap into bloggerland.

With this historic post, my life took a decided turn for the better.  I’ve found a great creative outlet that allows me to enjoy the thoughts of others while vomiting out my own.  My life has been enriched by your support to pursue the things that I really enjoy and to explore more music.

Thanks to all of you who read and comment and to those who just read.  While I invite you to comment, I understand if you don’t.  To those of you who have been here since the beginning (and you know who you are), I want to particularly thank you for your loyalty and friendship.  Of course, I’d like to thank that somebody who showed us how it’s done.  For without that brave soul, hundreds of tiny, unnoticed blogs would not have proliferated; freeing the captives.  (I keed.  I keed.)

Hopefully, I’ll have some more time soon to get into some discussions I’ve been noodling on in my big ole head.  Funny thing about finding a job that you really like…you end up spending a lot of time doing it.  However, I’m trying to carve out my moments of blog time and ideas but it’s like my swearing to get organized.  Mr. D. says that I just need to break down and admit that it’s just not going to happen.  This is how he sees me in terms of my projects and work, etc.


I’ve gotten better and this blog, in particular, keeps me somewhat focused.  Just don’t throw any shiny objects in front of me and I’m pretty much o.k.

I think that music is God’s way of providing a Rosetta Stone for folks to feel common emotions and to kun-NECK, you know, soothe the savage beast.  For the life of me, I am flabbergasted when someone tells me that they don’t really listen to music or they don’t know a watershed tune like We Can Work it Out or Hallejuah.  That’s why I feel that Music Maven’s purpose is to educate, discuss and advance music and artists of interest.  Bridge generations, genders, race and creed via the love of music.

I must say, however, that the best explanation of music that truly resonated with me came from some guy that happened to capture my attention a few years ago:

It’s music, man.  If music’s in your heart, you feel it, you play it, you sing it, you perform it, you bust your buns doin’ it.  And, that’s what it’s all about….



Friday Free For All

No particular reason, no particular order….

Shake it Sugaree, The Grateful Dead

Goin’ Mobile, Taylor Hicks

Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin

Bring it on Home to Me, Percy Sledge

The Greatest, Cat Power

5:19, Matt Wertz

French Waltz, Nicolette Larsen

Well, Well, Well, Ben Harper & The Blind Boys of Alabama


Posted by on November 16, 2007 in music


Better than Free?

So, possibly the biggest announcement in music in decades….

On Monday, the British band, Radiohead, announced that since they have broken away from their label — EMI — they are offering their new CD for download and get this….YOU DECIDE HOW MUCH YOU WANT TO PAY.


Of course, you can elect to pay only 1p (one penny sterling), but there is a 45p credit card processing charge. Therefore, the tracks are, in effect 45p which is still half the price of iTunes. The band is likely going to make as much, or more, than they made with the label. I’m hoping that someone is going to report on what the average price paid really is. I’m going to bet that it ends up being close to, or in excess of, the iTunes track price of 99 cents. It’s reciprocity. Radiohead is offering something revolutionary and the music public will pay them back by BUYING their music (for a reasonable price). In fact, I’m guessing that they will sell a lot more music than they’ve ever sold…and to folks who’ve never purchased their music.

The announcement, this morning, produced overwhelming volume that temporarily halted their site. The telltale quote from the article:

James Bates, media and entertainment director at Deloitte, said: “Radiohead are clearly trying to build an independent business model that suits their needs. Unless record company giants wake up and find a model that delivers real value to artists, technology will continue to be used to bypass the record companies, and in comparison piracy will seem a relatively small problem.”

Ko-RECK. While this has been done by more obscure “indie” artists, never has a band as popular as Radiohead defied the music bosses to this magnitude. This will be interesting to watch. How will “the biz” try to retaliate? What will they do to try to stem the tide of change?

Of course, you die hards who still require the physical CD can shell out the 45 pounds for the box set with fancy books and liner notes. They will, no doubt, sell plenty of these — from their own website, as well — to their core fan base while the everyday fan and casual listener will gladly pay the 45p per track. Affordable music for the masses…those who might never have given Radiohead a listen. New fans. More dollars per track and CD sold. Sounds like a win/win, to me.

A new paradigm in music sales on the horizon? Most definitely.

Here is the beautiful link to Radiohead’s In Rainbows.


Posted by on October 1, 2007 in Marketing, music, music biz


What about Scuba Steve?

Well, Colette’s at it again. I’m convinced that she is a Libra Dragon, as once again we have the Vulcan mind meld going. As part of the Paul Pena post a couple of days ago, I explored the fact that Paul’s Jet Airliner was the biggest hit of Steve Miller’s career. I had also been typing up a post about Little Stevie Winwood. So imagine my awe when I received Colette’s latest contribution on Musical Steves.

I’ve included a few omissions that I consider critical to the Stevieness of music at the end of this post….

Steveland Morris, also known to the world as Stevie Wonder, is touring after a long respite – and, of course, selling out arenas as fast as his huge, multi-generational fan base can dial their cell phones.

On the occasion of his return to the public stage, here is a mini-tribute to Stevie, and several other fine singer-songwriters who share his name.

We all have our favorite tunes from Stevie’s enormously rich song bag. Some major fans of Mr. Wonder, (Elliot Yamin, Taylor Hicks, Lakisha Jones) have prospered on “American Idol” by performing beloved Wonder songs – with his encouragement. I also love that Stevie is a world citizen who takes that role seriously. He championed making Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday, and has been right there for many good causes.

There’s a lot of video clips of Stevie, since his adolescent performances on “Ed Sullivan,” etc. They only confirm his greatness. Some picks from the treasure trove:

One of my favorite early songs of Stevie’s, “My Cherie Amour,” – with that immortal chorus, “La la la la la la….”

A great live audio recording of another fave, “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” nicely matched with a photo tribute to Mr. Wonderful – his (acoustic, for a change) piano playing is just gorgeous, as is his vocal melisma:

Stevie has dueted with everyone – from Kermit the Frog, to his Detroit sistah Aretha. Here he is with her during a tribute to The Queen of Soul, on the sublime hit he penned for her: “Until You Come Back To Me.” They got chemistry….

And here is Stevie’s moving tribute to Luther Vandross, at the latter’s funeral. Stevie singing an old gospel tune — “I Won’t Complain” – somebody say amen!

Finally, Stevie in great form, bopping to “Higher Ground” on the BBC:

There is another Stevie that started out as a mere kid, who sings with pure, distilled soulfulness, and knows all about “higher ground.”

He is Stevie Winwood, whom I’ve adored since his teen blues-shouting days with The Spencer Davis Group, his stint with the fantastic band Traffic, and so on. I saw him years ago in Plymouth, England with Traffic, and more recently in the U.S., He’s still a consummate blues boy, singing in his high, undiminished wail and playing my favorite soul-instrument (the Hammond B organ) with finesse.

The very young Stevie Winwood singing Ray Charles’ “Mean Woman Blues” with Spencer Davis Group – yeah his voice sounds like Ray’s! He plays some mean blues here guitar too…..

One of Winwood’s most beautiful original songs from his days with the super-group Blind Faith, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” recorded live in 1989:

I really recommend Winwood’s recent CD “About Time,” which has this killer version of Sade’s “Why Can’t We Live Together?” on it. Here he performs that ever-meaningful plea for peace, in concert with Santana at the 2004 Montreux Jazz Fest:

And just for you MM:

Steve and Eric Clapton bonding beautifully on “In the Presence of the Lord,” the poignant Clapton song from their Blind Faith days – clip is from a May 2007 concert in Britain, and they both bring it:

A rare clip of Winwood singing the Motown jump “Dancin’ in the Street,” with Chaka Kahn joining in at the end. She’s pretty screamy, folks, but Winwood nails this classic:

Finally, Winwood’s own answer to Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” his big 80s hit, “Higher Love” – the video makes you want to dance (a little Chaka here too, she sang backup on this disc):

A few other memorable musical fellas who also answer to “Steve:”

From my old Marin County hippie days, when I loved his early band Quicksilver Messenger Service ( thanks for the turn-on to Boz Scaggs, Steve!), and I used to see him sitting outside his Stinson Beach house strumming away: the inimitable Steve Miller, still a blues-rocker road warrior. A recent acoustic version of his stoner anthem, “The Joker”:

and Steve’s version of “Jet Airliner,” which helped introduce its composer Paul Pena to the world (Paul also wrote “I’m Gonna Move,” on Taylor’s CD):

Unless you’re allergic to protest music, there’s always Steve Earle. In my mind, this (formerly) hard-livin,’ country-rocker and fine writer (of both songs and short stories) is a great truth teller.

Having come clean after a rugged youth (including some jail time) this self-described “hard-core troubadour” is still putting out thoughtful music. Here’s an older clip, a lovely duet with Emmy Lou Harris on his heartbreaking ballad, “Goodbye:”

And here’s a potent recent anti-war song by Earle, done acoustically: “Rich Man’s War.” The words are haunting…..

Finally, a couple of younger Steves I’m digging. Steve Reynolds is a Canadian singer and acoustic guitar virtuoso getting some traction. Love that lonesome sound on his tune “Forsaken”:

And a countryfied L.A. comer, who sings with Kane and his own Steve Carlson Band. With a raspy-husky voice, good guitar chops and solid tunes to his credit (and hunky looks don’t hurt him none either) – Steve Carlson has a future.

Carolson’s infectious, upbeat tune “Dynamite”:

And the ballad “Now That My Love Is Gone” – classic folk-rock – circa 2007:

Well done, Colette. I just want to add a bit more Steveness to this post.

While there are literally hundreds of Stevie Wonder performances that I would consider “special”, I would be remiss if I did not refer to my absolute FAVORITE Little Stevie Wonder performance:

There is just no way not to bob your head and tap your feet to that.

I wish that I could locate a performance of Steve Winwood’s Arc of a Diver. It’s a little less known, but one of his best. However, I did find Steve Miller’s Abracadabra:

Colette’s Steve Smörgåsbord wouldn’t be complete without these Stevie’s, as well….

The incomparable blues impresario, Stevie Ray Vaughn

Texas Flood

The raspy-voiced vixen, Stevie Nicks

Leather & Lace

The Steve of my angst-filled teenage years, Steve Perry:


and finally, the wholesome goodness of Steve Carrell and friends….

Sorry, no Scuba Steve…this time.


Posted by on September 11, 2007 in music, Music History


Radio Nowhere

ETA:  Lefsetz redeems…I love this guy.  Hell yeah, music should be FREE!


The Boss is back….with the E Train Band.  And today only, a track from his CD scheduled for release October 2nd is FREE for downloading from iTunes and here.

Thanks to Bob Lefsetz for the heads up on this one.  Seems that Bruce is trying to make a statement?

Radio Nowhere

I was trying to find my way home,
But all I heard was a drone.
Bouncin’ off a satellite
Crushing the last long American night.
This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
I was sitting around a dirt dial
Just another lost number in a file.
Been in some kinda dark cove
Just searching for a world with some soul.

This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
Is there anybody alive out there?

I just want to hear some rhythm.
I just want to hear some rhythm
I just want to hear some rhythm.
I just want to hear some rhythm.

I want a thousand guitars.
I want pounding drums.
I want a million different voices speaking in tongues.

This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
Is there anybody alive out there?

(Sax solo)

I was driving thru the misty rain
Yeah, searching for a mystery train.
Bopping thru the wild blue
Trying to make a connection with you.

This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
This is radio nowhere.
Is there anybody alive out there?
Is there anybody alive out there?

I just want to hear some rhythm (you swoon.)
I just want to hear some rhythm (you swoon.)
I just want to hear you swoon.
I just want to hear you swoon.
I just want to hear you swoon.
I just want to hear you swoon.
I just want to hear you swoon.
I just want to hear you swoon.


Posted by on August 28, 2007 in music, Music Today, Springsteen


Sweet Harmony…a la Colette

Colette has another thoughtful submission on one of my favorite musical subjects….HARMONY.

har·mo·ny[hahr-muh-nee]: Music. the simultaneous combination of tones, esp. when blended into chords pleasing to the ear; chordal structure, as distinguished from melody and rhythm. A/K/A “Modulation”.

I love the sweet sounds of harmony and one of my absolute favorites is Seven Bridges Road by The Eagles:

I particularly enjoy acapella harmony but still like the acoustic guitars, as well. I must also include this as one of the most moving harmonies I’ve heard.

I Shall Not Walk Alone, Ben Harper & the Blind Boys of Alabama

So utterly soothing…and there is a distinct difference between male harmonies, female harmonies and “mixed” harmonies. Colette gives us some wonderful thoughts on the former.


Recent scientific research suggests that basic elements of musical sound, especially harmony, can have a potent physiological effect on our brains.

Given how my own being responds to beautiful harmony, I don’t doubt that. Listening to beautiful vocal harmony, or singing harmony parts with others, are almost spiritual experiences for me. Not to get woo-woo, but there’s a lushness, a richness, a sonic purity about intricate vocal harmony that can be ecstatic. It’s also interesting how singers without outstanding solo voices, can sometimes harmonize gorgeously with others.

Vocal harmony has been central to sacred and folk music for eons, and in American pop music I’m realizing how prominent and essential it’s been also. So I began to search for the harmonized pop music that moves me most, and found some stunning examples from a boundless ocean of them.

I’ve sharing some in two sets. The women’s set will come sometime later. But following in Music Maven’s current jones for male pipes, I’m going to the guys first.

A lot of black pop harmonizers got their “ear training” directly from the church. So let’s start with one of the great 1950s male gospel groups, the Swanee Quintet, which added electric guitar and bluesy verve to their plush gospel harmonies:

“New Mood” — The Sewanee Quintet (1950s)

Harmonizing in unearthly glory with the equally great Soul Stirrers (Sam Cooke‘s an alum) in Bob Telson’s brilliant 1980s musical, “Gospel at Colonus” are the inimitable Blind Boys of Alabama. This fusion of black gospel and Greek myth, seen on Broadway and around the world, is thrilling even on DVD. Here Clarence Fountain & Blind Boys (white coats) are collectively playing the dying Oedipus, and the Soul Stirrers (in purple and orange) are King Creon. Talk about your singing matches:

“Stop, Do Not Go On” — Five Blind Boys of Alabama and the Soul Stirrers

The gospel sound fed right into the secular pop music of the 1950s, when many black doo-wop groups put out classic ’45s. I heard this one as a little kid, and it’s been with me ever since. That opening phrase –” dom, dom, dom/ dom-be-do-be…….” Legend has it, the adolescent Paul McCartney and John Lennon were singing this song together they first time they met. If it’s not true, it should be:

— “Come and Go With Me” — The Del Vikings

White harmony-fueled acts derived more from the bluegrass/rockabilly harmonic strain, of Buddy Holly et al, also burst forth in the 1950s — including those Kentucky princes of harmony, the Everly Brothers, Phil and Don. No question that they directly influenced the Beatles and many others.

Here’s the impossibly young Everly boys on Julius LaRosa’s TV show in the 1950s:

“Bye Bye Love” — The Everly Brothers (ages 18 and 20)

Slightly older, and more poised, on British TV singing two of their dreamy best:

— “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “Cathy’s CLown”

Leaping ahead to the early 1960s, and building on the Everly sound, one of the greatest vocal bands ever: The Beach Boys. Teen genius Brian Wilson formed the group with brothers Carl and Dennis, cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine. They sang about a teen fantasy of the California Good Life: surfing, cars, and girls, girls, girls. But it’s those high, transporting harmonies that stay with you. Instead of conventional 1-3-5 chord structures, Brian experimented and innovated with different vocal layerings, and his own amazing falsetto. Good early live clips of the original Beach Boys (before Brian stopped performing live) are hard to come by — their lush sound was partly a studio creation, and without onstage monitors or decent amplification, their elecrified sound was tough to record outside the studio. But some great footage on youtube recently has made me a “little surfer girl” wannabe again.

My favorite BB hit, playing on an oldie radio station as I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, the day I got my driver’s license! Dig the high riff from Brian in the finale:

— “Fun, Fun, Fun” — The Beach Boys

A classic BB ballad, lusciously harmonized:

— “Surfer Girl” — the Beach Boys

And another fave — they could rock it! (“Yeah, the bad guys know us/And they leave us alone”)…..

— “I Get Around” — the Beach Boys

The Beatles were very respectful of, and competitive with, the Beach Boys — and vice versa. They were also wildly inventive themselves in their harmonies — a big part of their magic. Think of “Paperback Writer,” “Nowhere Man,” the list goes on and on.

Once again, the Beatles as artists were way ahead of live concert recording technology. But here’s a good live example of the uniqueness of their harmonies. Consider how Paul & John slip in and out of singing the same melodic line, and then suddenly there’s a gaping blend that verges on dissonace. It’s just smashing:

— “Ticket to Ride” — The Beatles live

The boys (with a nod to the Everlys) harmonizing on “I’m a Loser” (OK, so I’m impartial to John, the greatest rock singer ever IMO):

— “I’m a Loser” — Beatles, live in Paris (bonus cut: George sings lead on “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby”)

The Beatles Anthology” showed the Beatles were a spectacular road band whose sound was cemented by years of gigs in the UK & Europe. (For the best live audio recordings, get “Beatles at the BBC”.) The mingling of their voices was wondrous to the end, in this cut from “Let It Be,” from an impromptu concert on the London rooftop. The Beatles didn’t knpw it would be their last performance as a foursome — they were still talking about touring again. Ah, what might have been!

— “Don’t Let Me Down” — The Beatles

Flipping back to California, the folk-rock wave of the ’60s and ’70s brought more harmony. The pioneers in this idiom were the Byrds, and the fantastic, fleeting Buffalo Springfield. If the latter didn’t last long, their members had after-lives in great spin-off bands: Poco, Loggins & Messina, Neil Young‘s various groups and of course, Crosby, Stills & Nash. Her’es a very rare live TV clip of a classic Buffalo Springfield song, inspired by Janis Joplin. Wow, do they look young and sound great, especially Stephen Stills:

— “Rock ‘n Roll Woman” — Buffalo Springfield on “The Flip Wilson Show”

From the ashes of Buffalo Springfield rose the Eagles, the LA ’70s super-group formed by sidemen for Linda Rondstadt. The Eagles weren’t favorites of mine in their heyday, probably because their gazillion hits were so popular you couldn’t escape them. Also, what San Francisco rock freak would admit LA bands could be as good or better than our’s? OK, I was wrong! The Eagles wrote fabulous songs, and are still consistently excellent musicians and harmonizers. From a 1973 BBC appearance, intro’d with some a capella harmonizing:

— “Take It Easy” — The Eagles

A couple decades later, from a reunion tour (they’re putting out a new studio album this fall) — Glen Frye on lead (man, has he aged well!), Don Henley, Joe Walsh and the guys:

— “Tequila Sunrise” — The Eagles

So where do we go from there? Briefly back into the lineage African American harmonizers. On the a capella front, the terrific and still-touring Persuasions are role models for a lot of younger groups — here are Jerry Lawson and the fellas on a funky 1970s cover of (yeah!) the Everlys:

— “All I Have to Do Is Dream” — The Persuasions

After The Persuasions came some dynamic inheritors of the tradition, including the late and much-missed 14 Karat Soul:

Sesame Street tune, 14 Karat Soul

Still active are the successful Boyz 2 Men and others, but I prefer Take 6 for the originality of their modulating vocal arrangements and depth of their musicianship. I love what they do with this soulful Bill Withers classic:

— “Grandma’s Hands” — Take 6

Let’s close with a white boy band I’m learning to love belatedly — their first mega-hit live, and bringing it all back home with a Beach Boy classic (I posted this earlier, but it deserves an encore in this context). Those Backstreet Boys can really sing harmony! If only they had a Brian Wilson writing all their material they’d really soar….

“I Want It That Way” — Backstreet Boys live

– “When I Grow Up to Be a Man” — Backstreet Boys (at a tribute to Brian Wilson)


Posted by on August 25, 2007 in dudes, music


The Book of Amos


One of the magic musical gifts that I received this past year from Gray Charles was Amos Lee. Amos is a very interesting musician and artist. Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, he attended the University of South Carolina (Go Cocks!), where he dabbled in acoustical music outside of school. He returned to Philly to teach school, but decided to pursue his musical career. He ended up opening for the divine Ms. Norah Jones. Her n’er-do-well boyfriend/bass player, Lee Alexander actually produced Amos’ first, self-titled CD.

(Still holding out faint hope that Lee will eventually fade from the picture and Norah will hook up with Taylor Hicks and produce many Soul Chirren. I mean, Ravi Shankar was the grandfather of Taylor’s kids – how cool would that be?)

Anywho…Amos reminds me a lot of his self-proclaimed influences: James Taylor, Bill Withers, John Prine, and Neil Young. He’s easy to listen to a few songs are just addictive. Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight literally became an anthem for me last summer. His entire first release is good. Here’s the playlist and few YouTubes of songs:

  1. “Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight” – 3:08 *
  2. “Seen It All Before” – 4:15 *
  3. “Arms of a Woman” – 4:11*
  4. “Give It Up” – 2:38 *
  5. “Dreamin'” – 2:54*
  6. “Soul Suckers” – 2:49*
  7. “Colors” – 2:40
  8. “Bottom of the Barrel” – 2:00*
  9. “Black River” – 3:31
  10. “Lies Of A Lonely Friend” – 3:23
  11. “All My Friends” – 4:18*

*Denotes Music Maven favorites.
Arms of a Woman

Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight (Live at Abbey Road Studios)

Soul Suckers at the Stone Pony (Note: One of the best lyrics I’ve heard: “Nothing is more powerful than beauty in a wicked world.”
All My Friends & Colors

Today’s Trivia: Colors has been featured on House, Grey’s Anatomy and in the feature motion picture, Just Like Heaven starring Mark Rafalo and Reese Witherspoon.>

Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, Amos released Supply & Demand. Similar to the first CD but with more “seasoning” and confidence.

  1. Shout Out Loud*
  2. Sympathize
  3. Freedom*
  4. Careless
  5. Skipping Stone*
  6. Supply and Demand*
  7. Sweet Pea*
  8. Night Train
  9. Southern Girl*
  10. The Wind
  11. Long Line of Pain*
  12. I’m Not Myself

Here’s the video for Shout Out Loud.

As part of this release, Amos did a 12 part Podcast on iTunes regarding the making of the CD. It’s a really great look at how an album is cut. I thought that it might be cool to post it and discuss some of the issues he addresses. So, today we’ll start with the first three and I’ll put the others up in parts later.This first podcast talks specifically about the single Shout Out Loud and the start of the making of the album. The next two address some of the ins and outs of making the album and the shooting of the video. Again, very interesting insight into the making of a CD.

Amos Lee Podcast Part 1 Amos Lee Podcast Part 2

Amos Lee Podcast Part 3
My friend, NOLAGirl, had the opportunity to catch an Amos show at the House of Blues in New Orleans in December and here’s what she had to say:

Amos is what I like to call a “stand there.” He just stands there on the stage, with his guitar, in front of his mic stand. I suppose that could be boring, but with the soul in that boy’s voice, no way.He covered nearly all of his 2 albums, even the very slow, somber–ish tunes like “Black River.” That surprised me. I thought that would be way too slow to do live, but he pulled it off.

He opened with “Skipping Stone.” He added a trumpet player as the “oomph” in “Sweet Pea,” which was definitely sweet. They only “jammed” on one song (it escapes me now – sorry, that was December!), but it was a nice jam — a little improv, a little “life,” you know? He didn’t do “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which he had done in other cities, so I’m not gonna lie – that was disappointing!The crowd was mostly college aged and a little older, but there were couples in their 40s and 50s as well. Packed house.Oh, and in between 2 songs, a girl in the front row on the floor asked Amos to sign something for her because it was her birthday (no, I’m not making this up). He handled it well though, and said, “Right now? I’m kinda performing right now!”


Posted by on April 5, 2007 in Amos Lee, music, Uncategorized


Sweet Baby James

James Taylor Time Magazine Cover 1971

James Taylor Time Magazine Article 1971


For most of my life, the original JT – James Taylor – has been a very deep and strong musical influence for me. Although a soft-spoken soul, James has been very vocal in the music industry for nearly 40 years, influencing many modern day artists. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and was recently honored by a PBS Tribute featuring Sting, Natalie Maines (of the Dixie Chicks) and Bonnie Raitt. The Time article is an interesting read, having been written at the beginning of his career and at the advent of a “Rock seachange” to a more acoustic sound, without the benefit of hindsight to know just how much of an impact his music would have on music.

His story is an interesting one. In his teens, he suffered from depression and was actually committed for a short time. He actually got his high school diploma while in a psychiatric hospital. Shortly after being released and moving from his North Carolina home to NYC, he became a heroin addict. Here’s an early ‘70’s YouTube of James and Lee Sklar, the great bass player, doing Steamroller.



Dedicated to Texan

At the tender age of 19, he was signed by the Apple label of the Beatles. He moved to London and recorded the self-titled James Taylor. Included on this album is the now famous Carolina in My Mind.

Today’s Trivia: Paul McCartney and George Harrison played back-up on this tune… Sir Paul introduced James at his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, completing the circle.

Here’s a wonderful early performance of “Carolina”.


Of course, Fire and Rain, off of the Sweet Baby James album is one of his most well-known recordings. While many speculate that the song was written about a girlfriend in a plane crash, the truth is that the song is about a friend who was a drug addict, like himself, who committed suicide. The “flying machine” reference is his defunct band The Flying Machine and not an airplane. The title track is also a personal favorite.

Recent AOL Sessions version of Fire and Rain


There are other hits like Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend, How Sweet it is to be Loved by You, and Handy Man among the most well known. My brother (who is 9 years my elder) gave me JT’s In the Pocket album (yes, LP – you know, vinyl) for Christmas in ’76. I fell in love. At 12, I began a life long love affair with James’ music. I love the sweet, acoustic melodies and rich harmonies that he intertwines in songs. For my next birthday (13), my brother sprung for Gorilla, which includes the wonderful Mexico.


Married to Carly Simon for 9 years, he had two children, Ben and Sally but their marriage couldn’t survive his drug use. They collaborated on many songs but the BEST is Mockingbird.


I would vote Terra Nova way up there, as well. However, I HAVE to give props to my friend, Shelley’s favorite…Close Your Eyes.

At 58, James is still relevant in music but does it on his own terms now, when and how he wants to. Married to his 3rd wife and the father of 5-year old twins (God Bless You, brother), he resides in the glorious Berkshires of Massachusetts that he lovingly sings about in Sweet Baby James.

This recent San Francisco Chronicle article touches on James’ career, philosophy and the experience of working on what was likely Ray Charles’ last recording, Sweet Potato Pie. Of particular interest, he mentions first meeting Ray Charles (a major influence to him) in that same psych ward back in 1966 when Ray was there as part of his probation resulting from his 1965 heroin possession arrest.

Small world, no? – Very nice, very “James”.



Note: Temporary music files deleted.


Posted by on March 24, 2007 in Influences, james taylor, music, Music History