Chloë Moloney ‘sheds a little light’ on American musician James Taylor
Musicians are being snatched out of our hands, day by day. The gleaming names which arc over the ’60s, ’70s and right on through into the ’80s are fading with this tumultuous and uncontrollable roll in the new age of music. With the recent loss of musicians Tom Petty and Walter Becker, and in the archives stars such as David Bowie, George Michael and Rick Parfitt, the hastening pace at which they are slipping out of our grasp is alarming. It is crucial that we celebrate the surviving stars of the golden age, and preserve these glittering gems in all their melodic glory.
It is more than likely that, if you rifle through your parents’ record collection, you will come across James Taylor. This temperate, chocolatey voice graced the 1970s with his affecting songs which have undoubtedly gratified the world. With titles such as ‘Fire and Rain’, ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ and ‘Sweet Baby James’ under his belt, Taylor has created an empire out of his humble North Carolina roots. Born in Boston, Massachusetts in March of 1948, Taylor moved to Carolina before he was knee-heigh. Starting out on the cello, he moved to the guitar at the age of 12 — a musical transition which has proved to be incredibly lucrative.
Not only have Taylor’s songs left a warming, balmy imprint on the hearts of a generation, but his figures are ones to be envied. The star has sold over 100 million albums throughout his career, spanning just shy of 50 years. A proudly celebrated man in the music industry, Taylor was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Alongside this remarkable accomplishment, he has been added to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, has received a National Medal of Arts, holds a Presidential Medal of Freedom to his name and — as a grand finale — was celebrated at the 39th Kennedy Honours barely a year ago.
It hasn’t been an easy ride for the whole stretch of Taylor’s journey, however. Suffering from an aggressive dependence to narcotics, Taylor found himself down in the shadowy roots of depression and addiction. He admitted himself to McLean Psychiatric Hospital in 1965, before the throws of his career took off. Despite the indisputable turmoil and mental aggravation that Taylor underwent in such an institution, he utilised his time behind closed doors by refining his singer-songwriter talent.
Taylor’s harrowing past has nonetheless given him a commendable edge of generosity and cordiality which remains unparalleled. Donating penny after to penny to those in need, including the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013, it is clear that Taylor has contributed effusively to the population not only with his virtuosic genius.
Out of his five Grammy awards and handfuls of his albums reaching platinum status, Taylor’s most notable album is his second: Sweet Baby James. The title track on the album, and the record in its entirety, reached the third spot in the charts. This record has not only been a staple on radio stations and featuring in compiled lists of the industry’s finest albums, but his records have been thumbed in their passing down from generation to generation. Indeed, it was my own father who first handed me Sweet Baby James, urging me to so rightly educate myself.
If you are under the impression that those with the 1940s stamped on their birth certificate are dusty and old-fashioned, then I implore you to give the ’70s a chance. An unstudied glance may find them out of reach, at first; yet Taylor’s lyrics are utterly heartening and weighty in their didactic expression of our disposition. Whether you are looking for a lover, a friend or an enemy, Taylor provides the entire scope of the human condition through his guitar and his velvety voice.
For more information on James Taylor and his music, visit his website: www.jamestaylor.com