22 Jan Sweet Baby James
One of the things that sticks out immediately once you listen to James Taylor’s music is its easy, down-to-earth style. There’s a realness about this, a sense that his lyrics and melodies seem to transcend circumstance and life experience. One is taken in by his song writing because it’s so accessible; it feels private, open, as well as authentic.
In an interview that he did for a “master class” with Oprah, he said: “I am myself to get a dwelling; I attempt to keep it at the moment, and current, and who I actually am. There are lots of other types of actors that assume a character and go through a sort of a transformation–some have a lot of whistles and bells, a lot of design, a great deal of costume, lots of makeup, and those are all great, too. But in my case, you understand, it’s pretty much what you see is what you get. I don’t present a character. I don’t introduce a version of myself. I introduce myself.”
And one certainly feels that when you invest some time with his music Or watch him on stage. His love for music and the capability to process and communicate life adventures through it has been something he has done for more than 5 decades. This capability for music began in the home he grew up in. His mother had been training to become an opera singer until she married and had children, and all of the Taylor kids were encouraged to play an instrument. Though he started about the cello, he did not stick with it once he got a guitar. The rest, as they say, is history.
Even though Taylor has enjoyed widespread success, his life narrative has some pretty heartbreaking, heavy stuff woven through it as well. Depression runs in his loved ones, and he battled drug addiction for 18 years. Alcoholism was an issue because of his father and also took the life of his brother. His parents’ marriage fell apart, and three of the Taylor children (James included) spent time in psychiatric hospitals. Many of these life experiences have found their way to his work. And today, after being clean for several years, this is what he has to say about addiction:
“Prevent an addiction, which means if you like something an awful lot and it’s an addictive substance…run like hell. If you love it, then let that be the final time you ever touched it. I normally say you learn and live, unless you are getting high every day and then you’re just having the same experience over and over and over again. And eventually it doesn’t work anymore and you end up getting missed out on a lot of your life. It’s a criminal waste of time is what it is.”
Despite these setbacks, he’s become one of their very well-known and musicians that are overburdened. He loved the Beatles back in the day, along with his first big “getting in the door” of the music world came when he had traveled to London after graduating from high school. While there, he obtained great feedback concerning the tunes he had been writing. Eventually his friend Danny Kortmach (nicknamed “Kootch”) put him in contact with Peter Asher, the guy responsible for signing musicians on with the Beatles’ new recording label. Upon hearing a number of James’ stuff, Asher setup an audition for him with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. They both liked his sound, and also while the Beatles were occupied recording The White Album, James recorded in precisely the same studio when they were not there.
As he reflects on his journey, he credits his success to key relationships that opened doors, having the ability to play with and practice singing in front of people at open mic nights at the church or in coffee houses, and the musical emphasis he obtained in his house growing up too. However, when he talks about what the most important thing in his life now is, he’ll tell you it revolves around being a parent. He had two kids with his first wife, Carly Simon, also has twin boys with Kim Smedvig, the girl he has been married to for 16 years now. Reflecting on finding his spouse, he said this:
“To be able to share your life with somebody else…it’s the way I Think biologically we are setup–to couple off, to raise children. That cements our bond. It’s so gratifying spiritually. So much is said about love and about this romantic notion of what it is, like it’s a condition that we want to maintain in. But really, it is a relationship that’s going to develop over a long time period.”
And what he says about being a parent?
“You have to be there, you simply have to be present for them….they see how you are. They see the way you respond. They see the way you treat other people. That is as straightforward as it gets. I think people overthink being parents. …all you need to do is be there for them, be together as much as you can. …You need to be the person you want your children to be.”
When you listen to his songs, you know you’re listening to bits Of his life. And all of us can enjoy listening to favorite musicians from our living rooms or at the car, but there is something special that happens when we actually get to go and watch them. In James’ case, he’s got a way of, as he said, being himself. That openness on point and in person makes you feel as though you know him, like it’d be easy to sit down and talk together over a cup of coffee.
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