James Taylor, somewhere between his five Grammys and his diamond greatest hits album (which means it sold at least 10 million copies…), has lived a life on the receiving end of rescue. Taylor was born in Boston in 1948 and lived there for only three years before his family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He returned to Massachusetts in 1961 to attend a prep boarding school, but soon descended into a depression from which he did not emerge until committing himself to the acclaimed McLean Hospital in Belmont. Rescue number one.
The singer/songwriter then moved to New York to start a band called The Flying Machine. The band’s budding success was not augmented by Taylor’s own budding heroin addiction; the band would soon break up and Taylor would once again check into a facility that could save him from another vice. Rescue number two.
When recovered, Taylor moved to London and became the first non-Brit to be signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records. Both Paul McCartney and George Harrison made cameo appearances in “Carolina in My Mind,” and “Something in the Way She Moves” inspired Harrison’s “Something.” Unfortunately, despite thriving in such rarified air, Taylor descended back into heroin addiction and once again became a nomad of hospitals until he temporarily kicked the habit. Rescue number three.
In 1969, Taylor moved to California and released the supremely successful Sweet Baby James, which was anchored by the powerful, autobiographical single, “Fire and Rain.” He received his first Grammy in 1972 and married fellow musician, Carly Simon. The artist toured vehemently throughout the rest of the ‘70s and ‘80s while enduring yet another turbulent period in his life; a flourishing addiction to methadone provided a muddled backdrop to the passing of close friends (which included hearing the gunshots that killed neighbor and friend, John Lennon) and a divorce from Simon. The overdose of friend John Belushi, coupled with a desire to be a better father, finally catalyzed a permanent separation from drugs. The final rescue.
Since then, Taylor has experienced a renaissance that has reestablished him as one of the most revered adult contemporary artists of all-time. His effortless vocals and timeless musicianship have supplemented both political campaigns and the stages of a seemingly comprehensive list of musical legends. Most recently, Taylor showed some hometown support by playing at the memorial service of MIT police officer Sean Collier, who was killed by the men responsible for the Boston Marathon Bombings. James Taylor has foregone his role as the rescued and embraced the social responsibility allowed to him by his celebrity, and there’s no doubt that he will forever be regarded as a Boston legend.