James Taylor was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 12, 1948. He rose to fame in the 1970s, when he became known for writing and performing sensitive, affecting songs. Over the course of a long-running career, Taylor has won five Grammy Awards and seen many of his albums go platinum. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and received a National Medal of the Arts in 2011.
At the age of 3, he moved with his family to North Carolina, where he lived for the rest of his childhood (though his well-off family usually spent summers on Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts). Taylor's mother had studied singing; Taylor, like all of her children, was also musically inclined. Initially a cellist, he began to play the guitar when he was around 12 years old.
Beginnings of Musical Career
In 1965, James Taylor committed himself to McLean Psychiatric Hospital in Massachusetts. During his stay there, he honed his songwriting skills. After leaving McLean in 1966, he helped form a band, The Flying Machine. When the group broke up, Taylor moved to London, where he was signed by the Beatles' Apple record label. Taylor's debut album, James Taylor, was well-liked by critics, but didn't sell well.
In 1969, Taylor returned to the United States. Struggling with a heroin addiction, he checked into a hospital in New York, and then went to Austin Riggs, a Massachusetts psychiatric facility. After those stays, he played the 1969 Newport Folk Festival. Then he moved to California and recorded a new album, this time for Warner Brothers.
Taylor's career skyrocketed with the success of his second album, Sweet Baby James (1970), which contains what may be Taylor's best-known song, the gentle "Fire and Rain." Both the album and the song reached No. 3 in their respective chart categories. On his next album, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, Taylor had a No. 1 hit with his cover of "You've Got a Friend," written by Carole King. He also won a Grammy for his performance of that song.
Following a few moderately successful releases, James Taylor's Greatest Hits came out in 1976. The album was a success from the start, and has now received diamond certification (meaning it has sold more than 10 million copies). In 1977, Taylor won a second Grammy for his cover of "Handy Man." It was from the first album he recorded for Columbia, the multiplatinum-selling JT.
Taylor has been sober since 1984.
Over the next few decades, Taylor's musical output included studio albums, live recordings and even work on a Broadway musical. Hourglass (1997) won the Grammy for Best Pop Album (Taylor won Grammys in 2001 and 2003 as well). Touring has also enhanced Taylor's popularity, as well as his album sales; almost all of his releases have now attained either gold or platinum status.
In 2000, Taylor was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He received a National Medal of the Arts in 2011 and was designated a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 2012. Perhaps most important, Taylor continues to be esteemed as a songwriter and performer whose work speaks to people's inner emotional lives.
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