Accolades aplenty have be heaped on James Taylor, the definitive songwriter, one of the composers for whom the term singer-songwriter was first coined, and a recording artist with an uncanny knack for making both his own songs as well as those of others come to meaningful life.
"James Taylor is an artist who represents a timeless link between Stephen Foster, Jimmie Rodgers, Hoagy Carmichael, Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl and other great troubadour stylists of modern song in the western hemisphere," said Timothy White, Billboard editor-in-chief. White also suggested that, "More than anything else, generations of listeners know that the heart has no hiding place from the simple hymn-like truth of Taylor's art."
Wonderful words indeed for an extraordinarily talented commentator through song of his own era, a tumultuous time of change for America and the world in which it exists. With a father from North Carolina and a mother from Newburyport MA., Taylor managed to grow up quite literally in both states. He was born in Boston March 12, 1948, and over the years, he and brothers Livingston, Alex, Hughand sister, Kate experienced many a driving trip from the Bay State to Carolina. As children, they got to spend the summer vacations in both places, although in the long run, Massachusetts claimed more of their time. And in like manner, because of happy summers on Martha's Vineyard, that idyllic spot in the Atlantic just off Cape Cod, ultimately became James Taylor's home.
His first working experience in music came when the band Flying Machine was formed in 1967 with guitarist, Danny Kortchmar. As a solo artist, Taylor was also signed by the Beatles-owned Apple Records, which produced his very first album, James Taylor. Following a short stay with Apple, Taylor moved on, this time to Warner Brothers Records, where his first LP, Sweet Baby James, ultimately became triple platinum, with his song, "Fire and Rain," marking his commercial breakthrough. The following year, 1971, brought the release of a second million-seller album Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon, which included what would soon become a number one chart single, "You've Got A Friend," written by Taylorís good friend Carole King.
Taylor married Carly Simon, another successful songwriter and recording artist, in 1972, a union which also brought about a highly successful duet recording of Inez and Charlie Foxx's "Mockingbird," in 1974. Yet another outside songwriter, the team of Holland-Dozier-Holland was the writer of another substantial Taylor chart entry, "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," which was included in Taylorís 1975 album Gorilla.
Following a final Warner Brothers album, In The Pocket, Taylor moved over to Columbia Records (Sony) and released a number of well-received CD's, including JT a 1977 double-plantinum package which included a top 10 cover of Jimmy Jones' "Handy Man." "Flag" and "Dad Loves To Work" were released in 1979 and 1981 respectively and both made top 10 on the charts and both were certified gold sellers. Other albums achieving gold status were Never Die Young in 1983 and New Moon Shine in 1991. A double-CD, Live released in 1993 also went platinum.
Despite his ongoing success with high caliber recordings of other people's songs, Taylor is a songwriter of power, having shown his credentials in this regard over the entire course of his career. His own catalog boasts "Celebration," "Country Road," "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," "Ladies Night," "Steamroller Blues," "Your Smiling Face" and "Take My Heart," among many others.
Taylor was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, and that same year was the winner in 1999 of the Billboard Century Award, where he joined the eloquent company of George Harrison, Buddy Guy, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, the much celebrated Carlos Santana and Chet Atkins of Nashville, Tennessee.
Taylor continues to contribute melodic narrative voice to American popular music. In 2003, his album October Road was honored with a Grammy nomination.