Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch Series,”where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
James played the part of God in the opera Faust, by Randy Newman. Newman played the devil, and Don Henley played the title character.
He and his third wife have twin boys born in 2001 from a surrogate mother.
His mother is the classical soprano star Gertrude Woodard and his father is Dr. Isaac Taylor. He has three brothers: his older brother Alex (Born in 1947, Died in 1993) and his younger brothers Livingston and Hugh, and he has a sister, Kate. All of his siblings are musicians just like him and all have recorded an album. In addition to the twins, he also has two children: a daughter named Sally and a son named Ben, both of whom are also musicians.
James Vernon Taylor was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His family moved to Chappel Hill, North Carolina in 1951. James’ older brother, Alex Taylor has a son named James Richmond Taylor. Alex sadly lost his life on March 12, 1993, James’ 45th birthday.
He married Carly Simon in 1972. Their marriage lasted 11 years. In 1985, he tied the knot again, this time with Kathryn Walker. Their marriage lasted a decade. Taylor got married a third time on February 18, 2001, at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Boston. to Caroline “Kim” Smedvig. The Before This World track “You and I Again” describes his feelings about her when they first started going out.
He and his family spent their summers on Martha’s Vineyard, which is where he met Danny Kotchmar, (sometimes credited on albums as “Kooch”). The two began playing music together, and formed a band called The Flying Machine, which released a single in 1966 but broke up a short time later. Kotchmar became a top session musician, and joined Taylor’s band starting with the 1970 Sweet Baby James album.
As a child, he studied cello, but in 1960, he started teaching himself how to play guitar. Three years later, he headed back to New England to attend prep school at the Milton Academy in Massachusetts. When he was 16, he formed a band with his brother Alex and quit the Milton Academy. He also moved to New York and began experiencing severe depression. He checked himself into a Massachusetts hospital, where he was treated for depression and began writing more intensely.
In an attempt to kick what had become a heroin addiction, he moved in 1968 to London, where he got a record deal with The Beatles’ Apple Records and recorded his first album.
Garth Brooks is a big fan, and named his first child Taylor in honor of James.
James Taylor originally planned to be a chemist. He recalled to Billboard magazine: “That was the expectation – that I’d study science. But my father was strangely unenthusiastic about what he did. I assumed they had expectations of me, because they sent me to a boarding school whose entire focus was preparing you for college. Then I had my teenage emotional breakdown. Some teachers and friends suggested I get evaluated. I was sent to McLean [a psychiatric hospital outside Boston], and they kept me for 10 months.”
After 47 years and 17 studio albums, James Taylor reached the top of the Billboard 200 chart for the first time in 2015 with Before This World. Previously, Taylor’s highest-charting LP had been Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, which peaked at #2 in 1971.
Asked during a 2015 Reddit AMA if he had any major regrets, Taylor replied: “Randy Newman asked me to sing the theme song for the first Toy Story film. And I couldn’t find the time to do it. Lyle Lovett did a great job. But I wish it had been me.”
Taylor has done very well with cover songs, recording popular versions of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You,” Jimmy Jones’ “Handy Man,” The Drifters “Up On The Roof” and Buddy Holly’s “Everyday.”
Peter Asher, who was head of A&R when Apple Records signed Taylor, produced his 1968 debut album. When Taylor left the label a short time later, Asher went with him and became his manager as well as producer. Asher, who with his duo Peter & Gordon had a #1 hit in 1964 with “A World Without Love,” later took on Linda Ronstadt as a client, guiding her to great heights.
After James Taylor gave a demo tape of songs to Peter Asher, the Apple head of A&R played the demo to Paul McCartney and George Harrison. The young singer-songwriter then auditioned for the Beatles pair in Apple’s offices which at the time were in a small room on the third or fourth floor of a building in London’s Baker Street. Taylor, who was a “complete Beatles devotee” recalled the experience to Uncut:
“McCartney was a real hero to me. He and George Harrison were in the small room and they gave me five minutes of their time. Imagine that! I was thrilled and delight it but also extremely nervous. When I left the room they talked to Peter Asher for a moment. Essentially Paul said, ‘Do you feel like we can record with the guy?’ and Peter said, ‘Yeah, I think he’ll be good.’ So they signed me to Apple.”
Speaking to Uncut in a 2018 interview, James Taylor said the inspiration for his songs “still comes regularly.” He added: “I take a lot of walks… I find that if I lie down and close my eyes and take a 20-minute nap, it’s like putting a bucket down into a well and some ideas will come back up.”
James Taylor wrote his first song at age 14. He told Mojo magazine: “I wrote a little tune called ‘Roll River Roll.’ Just a simple folky number with simple guitar chords.”