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James Taylor Bio

by wrm@mws.phxcoxmail.com on 7/25/2022

James Taylor was born in Massachusetts in 1948. His father was a physician and his mother was an opera singer.   In 1951, Taylor and his family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  They built a house on the rural and beautiful Morgan Creek Road.   James siblings, Alex, Livingston, Hugh and Kate also became musicians.  James took cello lessons as a child before learning the guitar.  He was influenced by hymns, carols, and the music of Woody Guthrie.  His guitar style developed into a finger-picking style influenced from watching his sister play the piano.  Taylor's singing had a natural sense of phrasing. People began suspecting that James had “that thing” which made him musically special.  He got gigs at coffeehouses around Martha’s Vineyard.  He and his brothers then formed a band called “The Fabulous Corsairs” where James played electric guitar.

James attended Milton Academy, a preparatory boarding school in Massachusetts.  He left boarding school to finish his Senior year back at Chapel Hill High School in North Carolina. After high school he moved to New York City to form a band called “The Flying Machine”.

James moved to London and met a man named Peter Asher who was the A&R head for the Beatles' newly formed label Apple Records.  Asher  played James demo for the Beatles.   McCartney thought he was great.  Taylor became the first non-British act signed to Apple records.  He credits Asher his new found manger for "opening the door" to his career.    Apple released his debut album in December 1968.  The reception was generally positive, including a complimentary review in Rolling Stone by Jon Landau, who said that "this album is the coolest breath of fresh air I've inhaled in a good long while."  Being lonely and homesick he returned to the US. 

In 1969, Taylor headlined a six-night stand at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.  He also performed at the Newport Folk Festival as the final act and was cheered by thousands of fans who stayed in the rain to hear him.  With that success Taylor decided to move to California, keeping Asher as his manager and record producer.   In December 1969, he recorded the album Sweet Baby James which featuring Carole King.  This was Taylor's  breakthrough, with the single "Fire and Rain”.  Both the album and the single reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts.  It earned several Grammy Award nominations including one for Album of the Year. It went on to be listed with Rolling Stone Magazine as one of Greatest Albums of All Time.

In 1971, He appeared on The Johnny Cash Show, singing "Sweet Baby James", "Fire and Rain", and "Country Road".  He developed a strong appeal to female fans.  Time magazine did a cover story of him and called him the "the face of new rock".

in April 1971, The album “Mud Slide Slim” also gained critical acclaim and contained Taylor's biggest hit single in the US, a version of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend" featuring backing vocals by Joni Mitchell and Carole on piano which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late July.

In 1972, Taylor married fellow singer-songwriter Carly Simon.  They had two children together, "Sally" and "Ben".  In 1985 Carly separated with him due to different needs.  That separation motivated Taylor to become a better father. 

His career grew over the next few decades recording and releasing more and more hits and touring all over the world to this day.  A six-time Grammy Award winner, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.  He is considered one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide.


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