It seems likely that, back in 1968 when James Taylor signed to Apple records for his first album as an aspiring singer-songwriter, he would have happily -- willfully -- consented to an interview with any publication that would have him. Ah, what good old days those must have been, because 2014 finds Taylor, who is performing at US Airways Center on Tuesday, June 10, bigger than his britches and not interested in doing interviews. What a shame that fame should make him so inaccessible. To be fair, maybe there is something else that prevents him from taking interviews, perhaps the surprising, inherent shyness that Taylor shows on videos of television interviews?
Oh, but the things I would have asked him ... about the Beatles, ex-wife Carly Simon, the musical competitiveness with siblings, his lengthy drug addiction, and his botching of the national anthem at the World Series. But since I can't, we'll have to settle for snapshots of these subjects from man who told Dick Cavett in 1977 that he "was going to be a chemist, but took a left turn and ended up in New York."
So, how did he get here?
Luck, Luck, Luck ... All You Need Is Luck
James Taylor was the first non-English artist signed to the Beatles' Apple label. This was in 1968, when he managed to get his demo into the hands of Peter Asher, of Peter and Gordon fame, and an A&R man at Apple. Asher presented the songs to Paul McCartney who, clearly, heard something in Taylor. McCartney and George Harrison both appear on "Carolina in My Mind" from his poorly received self-titled debut solo album. It wasn't enough to keep him on the label, however. When Apple began an internal shakeup, Taylor returned to the states. I'm Waiting for the Man
When Taylor initially moved to New York in 1966 with guitarist Danny Kortchmar (Jo Mama, Don Henley) -- who he'd be performing with since 1963 and who later provided his connection to Asher -- he discovered, "it was as easy to get high in the [Greenwich] Village as get a drink," Taylor told Timothy White for his biography, Long Ago and Far Away. This began a long association with heroin. "Rainy Day Man," first recorded with The Flying Machine, chronicles these struggles. Though getting clean led to his move to London and his fortunate association with the Beatles, Taylor continued on and off drug use into the 1970s. It's a Family Affair
Before taking his solo jaunt to England, Taylor also played in bands with his brother Alex. He has, over the years, performed sporadically with brothers Livingston and Hugh, and sister Kate. All had solo careers at some point, with James having the most success. Could lingering animosity at JT's success prevented a group get-together beyond the brief concert together in 1981 (which comes off like a folk Bee Gees kind of thing), or was it to avoid becoming an acoustic Jackson 5? Who's So Vain?
In 1973 Taylor married Carly Simon, whose biggest hit, "You're So Vain," was not about him but someone else instead, raising plenty of tabloid-style wonderings. Thankfully, JT and Simon only made babies together, and not albums. Simon only appeared on one of his songs -- the hit remake of Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)." That was more than enough. Just imagine how bad it could have been, especially considering the album Gregg Allman and Cher made together! Sing, Sing a Song
Or sing two -- at once. That's what JT did when invited to sing the national anthem for Game 2 of the 2013 World Series at Fenway Park in Boston. Forgetting just why he was in Boston in the first place, Taylor launched into "America the Beautiful" with all the patriotic gusto he could muster. Admittedly, the smooth transition into the correct song -- the national anthem -- was a thing of beauty and should have become the latest dancehall mash-up, and would have if it wasn't, well, so folky. Pluck You
While Taylor won't give interviews, he will teach you how to play guitar. Taylor offers free guitar lessons on his website. You already know the words, so here's a chance to get the finger picking/strumming dialed in.
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