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Happy Birthday, Sweet Baby James

Posted: Mar 12, 2011

James Taylor, icon of the music world, is celebrating his 63rd birthday today His debut album "James Taylor" (on the British label Apple) was released in the US in February of 1969. A reviewer for Rolling Stone called the album "the coolest breath of fresh air I've inhaled in a good long while. It knocks me out." (photo of James Taylor)

Taylor followed the success of the first album with the block buster album "Sweet Baby James" in 1970. The album featured Taylor's single release "Fire and Rain" which soared to number three on the billboard charts along with the album itself. "Sweet Baby James" was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1971, and in 2003 Rolling Stone ranked the album #103 in the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Everyone knows about Taylor's long time friendship and collaboration with Carole King, but few people know about Taylor's friendship and collaboration with celebrated novelist Reynolds Price, a fellow North Carolinian. Reynolds Price, an award winning author and professor at Duke University, died this past January of complications following a heart attack. Even many of Price's fans do not know that he was the first significant American novelist to compose a successful Top 40 popular song. Price wrote the 1991 hit song 'Copperline,'with his friend, singer/songwriter James Taylor. (photo of Reynolds Price)

James A. Schiff in his 1997 book Understanding Reynolds Price writes "The collaboration between Price and Taylor goes back to 1982, when Taylor wrote the score for a PBS television production of Price's play Private Contentment. . . . The first song Price and Taylor wrote together was "Hymn" in 1988. Taylor had wanted to write a song for the retirement of an old friend, Bishop Paul Moore, and Price suggested they write a hymn. He then wrote the lyrics to "Hymn," which can be found in The Use of Fire (1990), and Taylor added the music (it was recorded several years later under the name "New Hymn" on Taylor's "Live"). The other song, Copperline which they co-wrote in 1991 while Price was staying with Taylor at his Connecticut home, can be found on Taylor's "New Moon Shine" CD."

Although Taylor was not born in North Carolina, he moved there when he was three and the state proudly claims him as a native son. The Chapel Hill museum has an ongoing exhibit about James Taylor called "Carolina on My Mind," and a bridge over Morgan Creek (the creek was the inspiration for the song "Copperline") has been named the James Taylor Bridge.

In January of this year, the documentary film Troubadours was released. The film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival and will be shown on public television this month. The documentary focuses on the rise of the singer-songwriters of the 1970s, particularly James Taylor and Carole King. The recent James Taylor and Carole King Troubadour Reunion Tour played to sold out houses. .(Photo of Taylor and Carole King)

----Penne J. Laubenthal
Related Links
    Reynolds Price: An Ardent Spirit Departs

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