James Taylor (born March 12, 1948) is an American singer and songwriter, originally from Boston, Massachusetts. His career began in the early 1970s, singing sensitive and gentle acoustic songs with less political and social activism in his music than during the previous decades. In spite of a significant base of critics and musical consumers who dismiss the early 1970s singer/songwriters (such as James Taylor, Carole King, John Denver, Jackson Browne and Carly Simon), his Greatest Hits album from 1976 was certified diamond after selling more than ten million copies.
Taylor's four siblings, Alex, Livingston, Hugh and Kate were also musicians with recorded albums. Their father was a medical professor at the University of North Carolina. James Taylor first learned the cello as a child, then switched to the guitar in 1960. While attending a prep school in Massachusetts, Taylor met Danny Kortchmar at Martha's Vineyard and the two began playing folk music together. After dropping out of school, James formed a band with his brother, Alex, then committed himself to a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts due to depression. He earned a high school diploma while in the asylum, then left and formed a band called the Flying Machine with Kortchmar and Joel O'Brien. The band was signed to Rainy Day Records and released one single, "Brighten Your Night with My Day"/"Night Owl"; the song was not a success.
After the Flying Machine broke up, Taylor became addicted to heroin and moved to London, England. He was signed to Apple Records after sending a demo tape to Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon) and released his debut album, James Taylor. The album did not sell terribly well and Taylor's addiction worsened. Moving back to the United States, Taylor checked into a hospital in Massachusetts to try and kick the habit. By 1969, he was well enough to perform live in Los Angeles but then broke both hands in a motorcycle accident.
Once recovering, Taylor signed to Warner Brothers Records and moved to California, keeping Peter Asher as his manager and record producer. His second album, Sweet Baby James, was a massive success, buoyed by the single "Fire and Rain", a song about his experience in an asylum. Both the single and the album were massively successful, bring Taylor's first album and the single "Carolina on my Mind" back onto the charts. Taylor worked with Dennis Wilson (of the Beach Boys) on a film, Two-Lane Blacktop but this was unsuccessful at the time. 1971 saw the release of Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, another hit album. He won a Grammy Award for "You've Got a Friend".
In 1972 (see 1972 in music), Taylor returned with One Man Dog and married Carly Simon, another singer/songwriter. His next album, 1974's Walking Man was a disappointment but the following one, Gorilla, was a success, partially because of a successful single, a cover of Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)". This was followed by In the Pocket in 1976, and then a Greatest Hits album that included some rerecordings of Apple Records-era material. It became a huge hit.
James Taylor and Carly Simon had two children, Ben and Sally. Simon was unhappy with Taylor's being out on the road traveling so much, and after he rejected an ultimatum from her that he spend more time with his kids, they divorced.
After collaborating with Art Garfunkel and briefly working with Broadway, Taylor took a two-year break, reappearing in 1979 with Flag. The album was a success, though there were no hit singles from it. Taylor also performed at the No Nukes concert in Madison Square Garden, then appeared on the album and film from the concert.
Taylor began touring regularly, though his studio recordings became more spread out. He won a third Grammy for Best Recording for Children in 1981 for his song "Jelly Man Kelly" off In Harmony 2. Several albums and tours followed in the 1980s, though Taylor was no longer widely popular and his reviews were more hit-and-miss than previously.
In the late 80s and 1990s, Taylor began touring more frequently overseas and releasing a few more albums. In spite of his waning popularity, Taylor's thirteenth album, New Moon Shine, went platinum in 1991. finally, he won a fourth Grammy for Best Pop Album in 1998 for Hourglass.