Today, legendary singer, songwriter, and guitarist James Taylor celebrates his 71st birthday. Active as a musician since the age of 18, Taylor’s prolific and timeless songwriting, skilled guitar playing, and distinctively beautiful singing voice have earned him an extremely successful career, selling more than 100 million albums worldwide and netting him five Grammys in addition to countless other honors. In 2000, James Taylor was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
While his self-titled 1968 debut album received moderate success, it was his 1970 sophomore release, Sweet Baby James, that catapulted the Boston-born musician into the global spotlight, as “Fire and Rain” rose to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the album peaked at #3 on the Billboard Album Charts. Though only 32 minutes in length, Sweet Baby James has gone on to become a classic LP. It was nominated for the “Album of the Year” Grammy in 1971, and was listed as #103 in Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” in 2003. His 1976 Greatest Hits compilation has been certified Diamond by the RIAA, selling north of 12 million copies worldwide, and each of the seven albums he released between 1977 and 2007 went on to sell at least a million copies.
Of course, beyond his studio recording prowess, Taylor is also known for his incredible musicianship and live performances. In honor of James Taylor’s birthday today, take a look back at some footage of JT live in concert, from his early years through the present day.
James Taylor – BBC “In Concert” Series – 1970
First, watch a 22-year-old James Taylor perform live at the BBC in November 1970, including an opening cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends” by British native sons The Beatles‘. Watch the in-studio performance below:
[Video: Federico Gallo]
With A Little Help From My Friends, Fire And Rain, Rainy Day Man, Steamroller, Greensleeves, Snuff Commercial Song, Carolina In My Mind, Long Ago And Far Away, Riding On A Railroad, You Can Close Your Eyes
James Taylor – Blossom Music Center – July 1979
Next, watch a more seasoned Taylor’s full performance at Ohio’s famous Blossom Music Center in 1969. Recorded over two nights, the concert film appropriately opens with a rendition of Sweet Baby James track “Blossom” and features a particularly unhinged and hair-raising rendition of “Steamroller” [00:36:00 in the video below]. You can watch the full-shot pro-shot video here:
[Video: Jacob Tender]
Setlist: James Taylor | Blossom Music Center | Cuyahoga Falls, OH | 7/18/79
Blossom, Millworker, Carolina On My Mind, Handy Man*, Brother Trucker, Secret o’ Life, Your Smiling Face, Up On The Roof**, Steamroller, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, Long Ago And Far Away, I Will Not Lie For You, Walking Man, Mexico, Honey Don’t Leave L.A., Sweet Baby James, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)^, Summertime Blues^^, Fire and Rain
Notes: *Jimmy Jones cover, **Carole King cover, ^originally performed by Marvin Gaye, ^^Eddie Cochran cover; “Two nights at Ohio’s Blossom Music Center taped for Showtime cable television.”
James Taylor – Rome, Italy – July 2018
Today, Taylor is still an active touring musician, playing arenas around the world. Give a listen to one of his more recent performances from his 2018 summer tour in Italy featuring a guest appearance from Bonnie Raitt:
[Video: cutting the cord]
Setlist: James Taylor | Terme di Caracalla | Rome, Italy | 7/23/18
Set: Carolina In My Mind, Country Road, Sunny Skies, Walking Man, First of May, Up on the Roof, Steamroller, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, Handy Man, Mexico, Something in the Way She Moves, Sweet Baby James, Fire and Rain, Shed a Little Ligh, Your Smiling Face, Shower the People, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), Johnny B. Goode*, You’ve Got a Friend, You Can Close Your Eyes*
*with Bonnie Raitt
Happy birthday, James Taylor! Here’s to many more!
[Originally published 3/12/18]