Born James Vernon Taylor, March 12, 1948, in Boston, MA, son of Dr. Isaac (Den of University of North Caroling-Chapel Hill Medical School) and Gertrude Taylor; married singer Carly Simon in 1972 (divorced in 1982); married Kathryn Walker in 1985, (divorced in 1996); children: Ben and Sally (from marriage to Simon). Addresses: Record company-Columbia/Sony, 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022; or 2100 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404 Phone: (212) 833-8000; (310) 449-2100.
Long-standing folk and pop singer/songwriter James Taylor ushered in the singer/songwriter movement in the early 1970s, and refined his style over the course of three decades-all the while maintaining the distinct musical craftsmanship that led to his early success. Taylor appeared on the cover of Time in 1971 and was touted by the magazine as the originator of the singer/songwriter era. In 1997, twenty- six years later, Bob Kurson of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote of a live Taylor performance, "Even the most militant atheist...would have sworn that James Taylor's voice was a gift from God ... Taylor's voice resonates with a thousand personalities." Kurson also wrote of Taylor's guitar playing, "There are guitarists-terrific guitarists-who would gleefully trade their first-borns to play an acoustic like Taylor." Eleven of Taylor's albums reached gold status and four reached platinum; he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1998 Billboard Music Awards, and garnered three Grammy Awards over the course of his long and ever-evolving career.
Taylor was born James Vernon Taylor in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 12, 1948, as one of five children born to Dr. Isaac and Gertrude Taylor. His siblings included brothers Alex, Livingston, and Hugh, and sister Kate Taylor. Three years after he was born, the family moved to Chapel Hill, NC, where his father had accepted a position as Dean of the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill Medical School. Starting at the age of five, Taylor attended the Milton Academy, a prep school located outside of Boston. By the time Taylor was eight, he had already studied cello and expressed a desire to play guitar.
His parents gave him a guitar two years later in 1960, and by 1963-at the age of 15-he played folk songs at local venues on Martha's Vineyard with close friend Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar. He dropped out of the Milton Academy during his junior year and joined a band called The Fabulous Corsairs with his brother Alex and Zach Weisner. Weisner was replaced a few months later with Jerry Burnham. In 1965, at the age of 17, Taylor moved to New York City and soon afterwards, admitted himself for ten months to the McLean Psychiatric Hospital in MA to be treated for depression. His song "Knocking Round the Zoo" was inspired by his stay there. After ten months of hospitalization, he took a trip to Russia.
In 1966, Taylor graduated from high school in the McLean Psychiatric Hospital, and then Kortchmar and O'Brien joined him to form The Flying Machine. Although they created studio recordings at the time, their material was not released until 1971 under the name James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine. The band stayed together for only one year, and Taylor began using heroin in 1968. He moved to London, recorded demos, and was introduced to Paul McCartney by producer Peter Asher. Taylor became the first outside artist signed to the Beatles' record label, Apple Records.
He released James Taylor in England with little success, returned to the United States, and admitted himself into the Austin Riggs psychiatric hospital in Maryland, where he was treated for his heroin addiction and depression. A year later in 1969, James Taylor was released in America. Taylor signed to Warner Brothers Records and moved to California with Asher. When Sweet Baby James was released in 1970, it rose to number one on the charts and became a best seller for two years. The popular single "Fire & Rain" was released in 1970 as well, and Sweet Baby James was soon certified as platinum. Taylor performed with Joni Mitchell on a BBC radio show in 1970, and his career was permanently launched.
Taylor was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1971 as the originator of the burgeoning singer/songwriter movement, and James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine was released as a nod to his popularity. The hit single "You've Got A Friend" was released in 1971, and Taylor toured 27 cities with his band-which included Carole King-and Kootch's band, Jo Mama. Taylor won a Grammy Award in 1972 for "You've Got A Friend." The song also garnered a Grammy for Carole King for Song of the Year. Taylor released the single "Don't Let Me Be Lonely" in 1972, and married singer Carly Simon, with whom he had a son, Ben, and a daughter, Sally.
Taylor and Simon released the duet "Mockingbird" in 1974, which became a million seller, and was featured on Simon's Hotcakes album. Taylor released Gorilla and the single "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" a year later in 1975, and played at Carnegie Hall with guests King and David Crosby. He released the single "Shower The People" in 1976 and toured with David Sanborn. Later that year the platinum selling James Taylor's Greatest Hits was released followed by James Taylor a year later, which also went platinum. In 1978, he received a Grammy Award for the single "Handy Man," and Peter Asher won a Grammy for Producer of the Year for his work with Taylor. Taylor won another Grammy in 1981 for Best Children's Recording for his In Harmony Sesame Street album. In 1982, Taylor performed for more than a million fans in New York City's Central Park as part of a nuclear disarmament rally, which also included performances by Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, and Linda Ronstadt. The concert was aired nationally on radio and filmed for In Our Own Hands.
Taylor and Simon divorced in 1982, so Taylor's 1981 release, Dad Loves His Work, was later viewed as a response to an ultimatum delivered by Simon over the amount of time Taylor spent touring. Three years later he married Kathryn Walker at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Taylor also performed in 1985 at the first rock festival held in Moscow, the highlights of which were shown on the Showtime cable network.
Further Success and Personal Losses
Taylor's 1969 Apple debut was re-released in 1991 by EMI Records followed by James Taylor Live in 1993, which sold more than a million copies. James Taylor Best Live was released in 1994 and a year later he received an honorary doctorate of music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Taylor delivered the college's commencement speech that year, as well. 1996 was a turbulent year for Taylor: he and Walker divorced, his father died at the age of 75, and producer and band member Don Grolnick died of cancer. Taylor's next release in 1997, Hourglass, reflected his losses and an acute awareness of the brevity of life. It opened and peaked at number nine on the Billboard charts, with more than 70,000 copies sold in the first week of its release. Taylor performed at the VH1 Honors benefit concert in Los Angeles, and performed on the A&E network's Live By Request show.
Taylor collaborated with a diverse group of musicians throughout his long career, including his ex-wife Simon, King, Mitchell ("California" and "In France They Kiss On Main Street"), Karla Bonoff, Steve Winwood ("Back In The High Life"), Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel ("Wonderful World"), sister Kate Taylor's "It's In His Kiss," Linda Ronstadt ("Gonna Work Out Fine"), George Jones ("Bartender's Blues," a cover of Taylor's own song), Brazilian musician Milton Nascimento, Neil Young (vocals for three songs and banjo on Young's Harvest Moon release), Crosby and Graham Nash, Ricky Skaggs (duet with Skaggs on "New Star Shining"), Jimmy Buffett, and John Hall of Hall & Oates. Taylor appeared on NBC's Saturday Night Live six times between 1976 and 1993, and on NBC's The Tonight Show six times between 1985 and 1994. In 1998, it was clear that both of Taylor's children with Carly Simon intended to follow in their parents' musical footsteps, as both were preparing to release debut albums. Taylor received the 1998 Billboard Lifetime Achievement Award.
by B. Kimberly Taylor
James Taylor's Career
Studied cello as a child; took up the guitar at age 12; played folk songs at local venues on Martha's Vineyard with close friend Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar as a teen; joined a band called The Fabulous Corsairs with his brother Alex and Jerry Burnham; moved to New York City; formed band The Flying Machine with Kortchmar and O'Brien; released material as James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine, 1971; first outside artist signed to Apple Records; released James Taylorin the U.K., 1968; James Taylor released in the U.S, 1969; reissued on EMI Records, 1991; releasedSweet Baby James, 1970; released the single "Fire & Rain," 1970; featured on the cover of Time,1971; released the single "Don't Let Me Be Lonely" in 1972; released duet "Mockingbird," 1974 with Simon; released Gorillaand "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," 1975; played at Carnegie Hall with guests Carole King and David Crosby; released "Shower The People" in 1976; released Greatest Hits, 1976; released James Taylor,1977; released James Taylor Live, 1993; released James Taylor Best Live, 1994; released Hourglass, 1997, album peaked at number nine on Billboard charts, with more than 70,000 copies sold in the first week of its release; appeared on NBC's Saturday Night Live six from 1976-93, and on NBC's The Tonight Show six times between 1985-94.
James Taylor's Awards
Grammy Award Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, "You've Got A Friend," 1972; Grammy Award, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male for "Handy Man," 1978; Grammy Award Best Children's Recording, In Harmony Sesame Street, 1981; . Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1998 Billboard Music Awards.
- Selected discography
- James Taylor , Apple Records, 1968, reissued, EMI Records, 1991.
- Sweet Baby James , Warner Brothers Records, 1970.
- James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine , Euphoria Records, 1971, reissued, Gadfly Records 1996.
- Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon , Warner Brothers, 1971.
- One Man Dog , Warner Brothers, 1972.
- Walking Man , Warner Brothers, 1974.
- Gorilla , Warner Brothers, 1975.
- In The Pocket , Warner Brothers, 1976.
- Greatest Hits , Warner Brothers, 1976.
- James Taylor , CBS Records, 1977.
- Flag , CBS Records, 1979.
- Dad Loves His Work , CBS Records, 1981.
- That's Why I'm Here , CBS Records, 1985.
- Never Die Young , CBS Records, 1988.
- New Moon Shine , Columbia Records, 1991.
- James Taylor Live , Columbia Records, 1993.
- James Taylor Best Live , Columbia Records, 1994.
- Hourglass , Columbia/Sony Records, 1997.
February 8, 2004: Taylor shared the Grammy Award for best country collaboration with vocals, for "How's the World Treating You" with Alison Krauss. Source: 46th Grammy Awards, grammys.com/awards/grammy/46winners.aspx, February 8, 2004.
October 20, 2005: Taylor was named MusiCares Person of the Year. Source: Hollywood Reporter, www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/awards/brief_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001349410, November 1, 2005.
- Acoustic guitar , July/August, 1992.
- Boston Herald , June 4, 1998.
- Chicago Sun-Times , July 5, 1997.
- Chicago Tribune , July 5, 1997.
- Frets , December 1987.
- Guitar Extra , Spring 1992.
- Guitar Player , May 1984.
- Life , October 1985.
- Musician , April 1988.
- New York Times , February 3, 1988; April 8, 1981.
- New York Times Magazine , February 21, 1971.
- Newsweek , November 4, 1985.
- Parade , July 12, 1981.
- People , August 24, 1981; October 6, 1980.
- Rolling Stone , December 10, 1981; June 11, 1981; July 10, 1980; September 6, 1979; February 18, 1971.
- Saturday Review , September 12, 1970.
- Stereo Review , January 1978.
- Time , October 23, 1985; March 1, 1971.