Happy Birthday James Taylor: Celebrating the Singer-Songwriter’s Best Moments

by Suzanne Halliburton
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James Taylor, one of the most successful musicians of our time, is celebrating a birthday today. He’s 73. And his voice and his words still are as relevant as they were when he was breaking onto the music scene more than a half-century ago.

And what a fabulous career. He’ll be vying Sunday for the best traditional pop vocal album award with his American Standard at the Grammy Awards. It could be his ninth career Grammy. Don’t you agree — that would be the best sort of birthday present.

But in this past year alone, he released his 29th album. And American Standard debuted in the top 10 Billboard top 200. He became the first artist to have a top 10 album in each of the past six decades. That’s the definition of perfect longevity.

Listening to James Taylor gives us a comfortable feeling. His songs are like your favorite, well-worn pair of jeans. You want to keep them around and never throw them away. If you flip on a Taylor album, you want to sit back on the couch. prop your bare feet on the coffee table, close your eyes, and mentally drift to Taylor’s delightfully familiar voice.

A lot of his songs are based on what’s happened in his own, sometimes tortured life.

“I’m a very self-centered songwriter,” Taylor told The Guardian last year. “I always have been. It’s the personal stuff I like, for better or for worse.” 

James Taylor began playing guitar and singing in his teens. He’d flip through his parents’ record collection, listening to music from Nina Simone, Harry Belafonte, and Judy Garland. Now, at 73, he’s sold more than 100 million records.

His first big hit was Fire and Rain. He wrote it about the suicide of a friend. In response, Carole King penned You’ve Got a Friend.

Since it’s Friday, we think it’s perfectly fine to listen to some of James Taylor’s finest work. So, stick with us as we sift through our favorites.

James Taylor Sings About a Lost Friend In Fire and Rain

Fire and Rain reached No. 3 on the charts. It was his first real breakthrough on the music scene.

Then came his first No. 1. Taylor turned Carole King’s song You’ve Got a Friend into an immediate classic. The song was quiet power, meant to tell anyone who is struggling to pick up the phone. Someone on the other end of the line loves you.

Taylor Gave Us Perfect Friendship Song

James Taylor released his Greatest Hits album in 1976. It sold 12 million copies and was certified diamond.

Taylor produced musical work that evolved into 40 gold, platinum, and multi-platinum awards. Both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame added him to their prestigious groups.

And now, we’re going to show you what quality longevity looks like. Every album Taylor released between 1977 and 2007 sold at least 1 million copies. Taylor’s first No. 1 album in the United States came in 2015. That was Before This World.

He’s also known for covers like How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) and Handy Man.

To date, his final appearance in the Billboard top 40 as a solo artist was for a cover of Up on the Roof. He always plays the song at his concerts. He put it on his live album in 1993 and a greatest hits album in 2000.

When America’s soul needed reassurance, Taylor sang it then, too. He performed it at the Concert for New York City after the 9-11 terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Taylor, who is a political activist, also has been at his patriotic best when singing America’s anthems. He performed The Star-Spangled Banner at Game 2 of the 2004 World Series and again at the 2007 Series. Taylor sang both the anthem and America for Series games in 2014 and 2018. He also performed the anthem at the 2008 NBA Finals and the 2010 NHL’s Winter Classic.

James Taylor even has performed with Taylor Swift. After all, she’s named for him. They did appearances in 2011. Taylor and Swift sang “Fire and Rain. They also performed Swift’s song, “Fifteen”. A year later, James Taylor appeared as a special guest at one of her concerts.

And, we’ll leave you with this song as we celebrate James Taylor and his 73rd trip around the sun. After all, he fixes broken hearts because he’s The Handy Man.

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