James Taylor (born March 12, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter, originally from Boston, Massachusetts. He grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where his father was a medical professor at the University of North Carolina. His family summered on Martha's Vineyard.
In spite of a significant base of critics and listeners who dismiss the early 1970s singer-songwriters (such as Taylor, Carole King, John Denver, Jackson Browne and Carly Simon), his Greatest Hits album from 1976 was certified diamond and has sold more than 11 million copies.
Taylor's four siblings, Alex, Livingston, Hugh and Kate were also musicians with recorded albums. (Livingston is still an active musician.) Taylor's children with Carly Simon, Ben and Sally have also embarked on musical careers.
Taylor first learned the cello as a child, then switched to the guitar in 1960. While attending a prep school in Massachusetts, Taylor met Danny Kortchmar at Martha's Vineyard and the two began playing folk music together. After dropping out of school, James formed a band with his brother, Alex, then was committed to a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts by his parents due to depression. He believes that this action on his behalf saved his life. He earned a high school diploma while in the asylum, then left and formed a band called the Flying Machine with Kortchmar and Joel O'Brien. The band was signed to Rainy Day Records and released one single, "Brighten Your Night with My Day"/"Night Owl"; the song was not a success.
After the Flying Machine broke up, Taylor became addicted to heroin and moved to London, England. He was signed to Apple Records after sending a demo tape to Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon) and released his debut album, James Taylor. The album did not sell terribly well and Taylor's addiction worsened. His father flew to England to "rescue" him. Moving back to the United States, Taylor checked into a hospital in Massachusetts to try to kick the habit. By 1969, he was well enough to perform live in Los Angeles but then broke both hands in a motorcycle accident.
Once recovered, Taylor signed to Warner Brothers Records and moved to California, keeping Peter Asher as his manager and record producer. His second album, Sweet Baby James, was a massive success, buoyed by the single "Fire and Rain", a song about his experience in an asylum and the suicide of a friend. The success of this single and the album, piqued interest in Taylor's first album, James Taylor, bringing it and the single "Carolina on My Mind" back onto the charts.
Taylor worked with Dennis Wilson (of the Beach Boys) on a film, Two-Lane Blacktop but this was unsuccessful at the time. 1971 saw the release of Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, another hit album. He won a Grammy Award for his version of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend".
In 1972 (see 1972 in music) Taylor returned with One Man Dog and married Carly Simon, another singer-songwriter. His next album, 1974's Walking Man, was a disappointment but the following one, Gorilla, was a success, partially because of a successful single, a cover version of Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)". This was followed by In the Pocket in 1976, and then a Greatest Hits album that included some rerecordings of Apple Records-era material. It became a huge hit and remains Taylor's best-selling album.
Taylor and Simon had two children, Benjamin ("Ben") and Sarah ("Sally"). Simon was unhappy with Taylor's being out on the road traveling so much; he rejected an ultimatum from her that he spend more time with his children, and they eventually divorced in 1983.
After collaborating with Art Garfunkel and briefly working on Broadway, Taylor took a two-year break, reappearing in 1979 with Flag. The album was a success, though there were no hit singles from it. Taylor also performed at the No Nukes concert in Madison Square Garden, then appeared on the album and film from the concert.
In the last two decades Taylor has toured regularly, and the pace of his studio recordings has slowed down. His two albums of original material from the 1990s were notably successful: his thirteenth album, New Moon Shine, went platinum in 1991, and he won the coveted Grammy for Best Pop Album in 1998 for Hourglass.
Awards and recognition
- Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, 1971, "You've Got a Friend"
- Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, 1977, "Handy Man"
- Best Pop Album, 1998, Hourglass
- Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, 2001, "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight"
- Best Country Collaboration With Vocals, 2003, "How's the World Treating You", with Alison Krauss
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2000
- James Taylor (1968)
- Sweet Baby James (1970)
- James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine (1971) - recorded 1966-1967
- Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon (1971)
- One Man Dog (1972)
- Walking Man (1974)
- Gorilla (1975)
- In the Pocket (1976)
- Greatest Hits (1976)
- JT (1977)
- Flag (1979)
- Dad Loves His Work (1981)
- That's Why I'm Here (1985)
- Never Die Young (1988)
- New Moon Shine (1991)
- (LIVE) (1993)
- (Best LIVE) (1994)
- Hourglass (1997)
- Greatest Hits Volume 2 (2000)
- October Road (2002)
- The Best of James Taylor (2003)
- James Taylor: In Concert (1988)
- Squibnocket (1993)
- Live at the Beacon Theatre (1998)
- Pull Over (2002)