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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