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James Taylor

Even more than his West Coast contemporary Jackson Browne, James Taylor came to epitomize the label "sensitive singer/songwriter," though some of his greatest hits have also been covers. Successful, too -- many of his albums have gone gold or platinum, and 1976's Greatest Hits, a constant best-seller, is one of the rare records to have been certified Diamond (10 million copies sold). Born to a distinguished academic family, he dropped out of high school and, like his siblings Alex, Kate and Livingston, chose the musician's life. His early career was marked by struggles with mental illness and heroin addiction; he moved to London, met producer Peter Asher, and signed with The Beatles' Apple Records, which released his debut album, James Taylor, in late 1968 in the UK. That one didn't really take off until Taylor had returned to the States, signed to Warner Bros., and released his stellar second album, 1970's Sweet Baby James, and its hit single "Fire and Rain," based on Taylor's early experiences as a patient in a mental hospital. 1971 saw the advent of Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, with its hit single, Taylor's version of the Carole King tune "You've Got a Friend." From the mid-'70s to the early '80s, Taylor was married to singer/songwriter Carly Simon, with whom he recorded several noteworthy duets, including '50s hits "Mockingbird" and "Devoted to You." As the '80s progressed and album sales slowed, Taylor devoted himself to the tour circuit, which allowed him to retain a loyal fan base; in the late '80s his studio and live album sales revived, and his releases continue to sell well, most recently 2002's October Road.

Written by: Mary Eisenhart

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