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James Taylor Biography

Last updated: 08/23/2012 12:34:12 PM

James Taylor-photo
James Taylor was the pre-eminent singer/songwriter of the Seventies and has remained a solid musical craftsman and performer. Born in Boston in 1948, Taylor grew up in the university town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He summered with his family on Martha's Vineyard, where he met fellow guitarist/songwriter Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar and began performing. Beset by drug problems, he voluntarily institutionalized himself and began writing songs during his stay. Moving to New York , Taylor formed the Flying Machine with Kortchmar in 1966. After their breakup, he headed to London, where he lived for a year. He cut a demo tape that got him signed to the Beatles' Apple Records by A&R man Peter Asher, who became his manager and producer. The debut album James Taylor (1968) contained Taylor's classic "Carolina in My Mind."

In 1969, he signed to Warner Bros. and moved to California, where he recorded the classic Sweet Baby James with a band that included guitarist Kortchmar and Carole King on piano. Released in March 1970, the album offered its share of signature songs, including "Fire and Rain," "Sunny Skies," "Country Road" and "Sweet Baby James." Its phenomenal success helped usher in an age of "new troubadours"--including such singer/songwriters as Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and Crosby, Stills and Nash--who pointed popular music in a quieter, more introspective direction after the turbulent Sixties.

His third album, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon (1971), found Taylor-mania in full swing. It was certified platinum the month of its release and reaches #2 on Billboard's album chart. Taylor's version of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend" became his first--and, to date, only--#1 single. It won Grammys both for Taylor (Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male ) and King (Song of the Year). A 1971 cover story in Rolling Stone proclaimed James Taylor and his musical siblings--sister Kate and brothers Livingston, Alex and Hugh--"the first family of the new rock."

Taylor remained a prolific recording artist throughout the Seventies, releasing a string of solid albums: One Man Dog (1972), Walking Man (1974), Gorilla (1975) and In the Pocket (1976). Such breezy, soulful singles as "How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)" and "Mockingbird," a duet with Carly Simon, made the Top Five. His reign as a pop icon culminated in the December 1976 release of Greatest Hits, which has sold more than 11 million copies. Taylor's combined catalog has sold an astonishing 30 million copies to date.

In 1977, Taylor moved to Columbia Records, where he debuted with JT, an album that found him in peak form as a folk-pop stylist whose songcraft cut deeply. The pace of his releases has slowed over the years, but his work has intensified in its depth and craft. His later albums, notably New Moon Shine (1991) and Hourglass (1997), rank with his best. In fact, Hourglass won Taylor a coveted Grammy for Best Pop Album in 1998. Taylor's hit-filled live shows are renowned for their exquisitely polished musicianship. James Taylor (LIVE), A double CD released in 1993, was a career-spanning triumph that documented his exacting artistry onstage.


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