James Taylor

It was December 1969 and James Taylor had to have been feeling blue.  It had been a rough couple of years for him, to say the least. Though he was signed to Warner Bros. Records, Taylor had been in a mental institution, lost his girlfriend to a plane crash and was a drug addict—heroin was his poision.  That, and he watched as his debut record went nowhere.  Dammit, it wasn't just a debut record.  Released in 1968, the album James Taylor was the only non Beatles record to ever be released on Apple Records.  That the album didn't do "jack shit" probably really haunted him.  Taylor could sing, he could play guitar and he could write songs! He knew he was a talent.  Paul McCartney knew it, too.  Would he have to spend the rest of his life wondering "what if?"

Furthermore, James Taylor was broke—"essentially homeless," actually.  Night after night, he slept on friend's couches while he recorded his follow up to James Taylor, an album later known as Sweet Baby James.  He had actually finished the record.  The problem was Warner Bros. Records didn't think so.  Even for those days, the album was too short—under 28 minutes! He needed at least one more song.

James Taylor had an incentive to finish the album as soon as possible—a cash incentive, an advance amounting to $20,000.  So the homeless Taylor combined a few unfinished songs into a complete song.  The result was appropriately titled "Suite for 20 G."  It's perhaps the most autobiographical song title ever penned.  For the record, it's actually one of my favorite James Taylor songs and, to this day, remains totally overrated.

Simultaneously, the young people of the USA were also feeling blue.  All that optimism of the 1960s was dead.  The ideals of the "summer of love"  couldn't penetrate through an unforgiving reality.  The public fell in love with James Taylor andSweet Baby James, which became a HUGE hit.  In 1971, it was nominated for a Grammy for "Album of The Year" .  If 1971 wasn't one of the best years in music, he absolutely would have won the award.  One more thing—the success of Sweet Baby James made his debut record a hit, as well.  You could say 'the times were-a-changin' for James Taylor.  He was still a heroin addict though—I guess you can't win 'em all. 

Though "Fire And Rain" was the hit, "Suite for 20 G" is probably an even stronger example of Taylor's gift.  He sang  every harmony, which were nearly as good as Crosby Stills & Nash's.  Perhaps the most moving section of the suite is the third section.  When Taylor sings "You can say I want to be free/ I can say someday I will be," it's almost impossible not to picture the heros of the 60s: the late John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, etc.  Taylor gave listeners a hint of optimism, a possibility that the dreams of the decade were still alive.  Whether he liked it or not, JT was becoming a voice of a generation.

"Suite For 20 G" by James Taylor (That's Carole King on piano, by the way!)

When it came to his career, Taylor never had to say "What if?" ever again.  However, after listening to his later songs—songs which were arguably suited for elevators— fans were probably saying "what if?" quite often. Sadly, James Taylor never recorded an album as good as Sweet Baby James ever again.  Fact is, Taylor never really became the voice of a generation he was projected to be.  But you should still listen to this album.  It's one of the best ever.

Sweet Baby James by James Taylor


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One of my favorite soft-rock hits ever.  It's totally underrated and, as a songwriter, I often wish that I wrote it.  There's something both sad and uplifting about "Her Town Too," a top 20 hit sung by James Taylor and J.D. Souther.  The song was written by Taylor, Souther and guitarist Waddy Wachtel, whose three note acoustic guitar riff is one of the most recognizable elements of the song.   You all know who James Taylor is but J.D. Souther and Waddy Wachtel's names may not ring a bell.  Ironically, J.D. Souther, has written more hit songs than James Taylor has.  Among some of the most notable tracks Souther wrote—or co-wrote—are "New Kid In Town" and "Heartache Tonight" by The Eagles and "Faithless Love" by Linda Ronstadt.  Waddy Wachtel, on the other hand, has played guitar on countless records from the 70s by artists like Stevie Nicks, Iggy Pop and Keith Richards.  

"Her Town Too" was the most successful—and arguably the most appropriate—single from James Taylor's 1981 album Dad Loves His Work.   How is it the most appropriate, you may ask? Well, consider this: when Taylor's then wife Carly Simon gave him an ultimatum of touring vs. spending more time with her and the kids, the album title Dad Loves His Work was essentially his answer—jeez.  The subject of the song "Her Town Too" is a couple's separation  and knowing the history behind the album, you can't help but read between the lines.  James Taylor and Carly Simon finalized their divorce in 1983.  

"Her Town Too" by James Taylor and J.D. Souther (with Waddy Wachtel)

Dad Loves His Work by James Taylor*

You're Only Lonely by J.D. Souther**

*feat. Waddy Wachtel 

** feat. Waddy Wachtel, Glenn Frey and Don Henley (Eagles)