Friday, August 28, 2009

James Taylor - A Tale of Personal Perseverance

by Brent Warnken

James Taylor has been through a lot personally, enough to sink most people, yet Taylor has persevered and created some great music over the past four decades. He's the epitome of the singer/songwriter and a truly great artist. Taylor is still touring today and fans from all over are looking to get James Taylor tickets.

Taylor was born is Boston in 1948, but his family relocated to the southern part of the United States early in Taylor's life when his father received a position at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cello was the first instrument that Taylor learned how to play, but he'd moved on to the guitar by age 12. He formed a folk duo with Danny Kortchmar in his teens and eventually dropped out of high school at 16 to form a band with his brother Alex.

Taylor relocated to New York, but was struck with a wave of depression that forced him to check himself into a mental health clinic. Many of Taylor's earliest work was written during his stay at a clinic in Massachusetts, as Taylor found inspiration all around him. He also earned his high school diploma during that period.

After his release, Taylor received a record contract as a part of the group the Flying Machine, which included Kortchmar and Joel O'Brien. The group was short-lived, though, with nothing much coming off the collaboration.

In the late '60s, Taylor found himself on the rocks again; this time it was heroin addiction that gripped him. He moved to London in 1968 in an attempt to shake the habit, eventually receiving a record contract and releasing his self-titled debut album. The album did not receive much attention and Taylor was unable to kick his addiction. Things were not looking good for the young man. He returned to Massachusetts and checked himself into rehab, successfully overcoming his addiction in 1969.

Taylor appeared to be back on track until a motorcycle accident temporarily left him without the use of his hands, but still he forged ahead. Taylor eventually released Sweet Baby James, which proved to be his breakthrough effort, in 1970. Propelled by the hit "Fire and Rain," Sweet Baby James became a top five hit. The song was written about his time in mental institutions and rehabilitation clinics. "I've seen fire and I've seen rain/I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end/I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend/But I always thought that I'd see you again," goes the chorus of the song.

In 1971 Taylor appeared on the cover of Time magazine, touted as the leading songwriter of the time. To think that just five years earlier he had been in a mental institution and addicted to heroin just a few years prior, one can see how far Taylor came in such a small window of time. Taylor would go on to sell countless albums, collaborate with the most famous names in music and even marry Carly Simon. A lot of people would have given up on music, and in some cases life, if they were in Taylor's shoes in the late '60s, but Taylor persevered and came out the other side a better man.

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