I was introduced to TAYLOR’S breakthrough album ‘Sweet Baby James’ in high school, nearly 20 years after its release in 1970. I did find it intriguing to find out that around this time he had been in and out of a full blown heroin addiction – and somehow this made his delivery all the more appealing. It made his sorrow and longing real. SWEET BABY JAMES opens with the song of the same title, and as soon as you hear his natural sense of phrasing, every syllable beautifully in time – you know he had that thing.
There is a young cowboy he lives on the range
His horse and his cattle are his only companions
He works in the saddle and he sleeps in the canyons
Just waiting for Summer, his pastures to change
And as the moon rises he sits by his fire
Thinking about women and glasses of beer
And closing his eyes as the dogies retire
He sings out a song which is soft but it’s clear
As if maybe someone could hear
This introduction to JAMES TAYLOR had my adolescent head spinning. No, I had never been in a relationship (I was 15) but I knew that if there ever was a ‘type’ that got my senses tingly, it was the JAMES TAYLOR type: sensitive, lonely, and TROUBLED. HOT.
Goodnight you moonlight ladies
Rockabye sweet baby James
Deep greens and blues are the colours I choose
Won’t you let me go down in my dreams
And rockabye sweet baby James
I was iN LOVE with this man. I only wish I could have been at Newport Folk Festival in 1969 to drool. FiRE and RAiN is a song about TAYLOR’S experience in psychiatric institutions and the suicide of his friend. His guitar style was really unlike any others at the time - a finger-picking style that was meant to be like a piano. Both the album and the single reached #3 in the Billboard charts, with SWEET BABY JAMES selling more than 1½ million copies in its first yearand eventually more than 3 million in the United States alone. SWEET BABY JAMES was received at its time as a folk-rock masterpiece, an album that effectively showcased TAYLOR’S talents to the mainstream public, marked the direction he would take in following years, and made him one of the main forces of the movement.
JAMES TAYLOR is an inspiration to me – personally because I admire his ability to write songs and sing in a way unlike any other man in the history of music. Kudos to you JAMES, wherever you are – and thanks for the great music!