SiriusXM is running a James Taylor channel now through I-hope-forever-please and, y’all. I never understood Parrotheads or Deadheads or any sort of heads that could listen to one artist nonstop to find peace, but I GET IT NOW. James Taylor can sing a song like “Junkie’s Lament” about a man being so coked out he doesn’t recognize his mom when she calls to him and it sounds like a damn lullabye.
So I listen to this channel all of the times that I’m in the car, harmonizing and just generally being really, really happy. I always loved the honeymoon period of his relationship with equally awesome and talented songwriter Carol King. I just imagine them, entangled in bedsheets, lanky limbs draped over eachother as afternoon light spills in through slatted blinds, just singing and humming and playing with chord structures and eachother’s hair.
(Of course, I am not crazy about the reality of their relationship, much like Bill Murray and Gilda Radner, but we are all young and stupid once.)(Hopefully, only once.)
My favorite little snippets are James Taylor himself describing how a song came to be – I mean, that’s the best part of a singer/songwriter showcase, right? – and one thing I’ve learned is that, as brilliant a musician as he was, he realized he wasn’t the best at everything. He’d often think, “Hm, this piece needs a (insert instrument here) solo,” and then he’d go find some really brilliant musician on that instrument, and hand them just the chord changes and say, “Do what feels good here.”
A brilliant musician – and dare I say, LEADER – trusts people to do what they’re best at and without any sort of micromanaging. Just give them the major chord changes, the parameters and the vision, and just let them go and complement the structure.
On a not-so-deep note, I love that his stuff sounds pretty damn near the same if he’s live or recorded, because that’s just the way his voice is. Props to authenticity.