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  Who is James Taylor?

James Taylor tickets at Los Angeles wilshire theatre

When people use the term "singer/songwriter" (often modified by the word "sensitive") in praise or in criticism, they're thinking of James Taylor. In the early '70s, when he appeared with his introspective songs, acoustic guitar, and calm, understated singing style, he mirrored a generation's emotional exhaustion after tumultuous times. Just as Bing Crosby's reassuring voice brought the country out of the Depression and through World War II, Taylor's eased the transition from '60s activism and its attendant frustrations into the less political, more inward-looking '70s. He was rewarded with a series of hit albums and singles (surprisingly, many of the latter were covers of old songs rather than his own compositions), and he managed to survive his initial fame to achieve lasting popularity. He continued to tour successfully for decades, and, starting with his 1970 breakthrough Sweet Baby James, all but one of his regular album releases for the rest of the century went gold or platinum, while his 1976 Greatest Hits album achieved a diamond certification reflecting sales of more than ten million copies.

Taylor continued to tour frequently in the early 1980s, a period when his marriage to Carly Simon came to an end (they were divorced in 1983). Often, his performances took place overseas. In January 1985, he performed at the Rock in Rio concert in Brazil, a show that resulted in the Brazil-only release Live in Rio. His next studio album, following a gap of more than four years, was That's Why I'm Here, released in October 1985. As usual, his record label issued a cover song as the single; in this case it was Buddy Holly's "Everyday," which didn't get very far up the charts. Nevertheless, Taylor's long career and constant touring had brought him a permanent audience ready to buy his records, and the album eventually went platinum. On December 14, 1985, he married for the second time, to Kathryn Walker; a month later, he was on tour in Australia.

Road work continued to be Taylor's primary occupation in the mid-'80s, but he came off tour long enough to finish another album, Never Die Young, only a little more than two years after That's Why I'm Here, released in January 1988. The title song, issued as a single, barely reached the charts, but Never Die Young was another million-seller. The late '80s and early '90s saw more extensive, worldwide touring. New Moon Shine, Taylor's 13th regular album release, came in October 1991, the same month that he sold out six consecutive shows at the Paramount Theater in New York; the disc stayed in the charts nearly a year and sold a million copies.

Despite his consistent draw as a concert attraction, Taylor had never released a live album in the U.S. until the August 1993 appearance of (Live), a two-CD set that went platinum within months. Columbia Records, which had never had a Taylor compilation to promote, trimmed the album down to a single disc of hits for the 1994 release Best (Live). Taylor was divorced from his second wife in 1996. His next album, Hourglass, released in May 1997, demonstrated his continuing appeal by entering the charts in the Top Ten. On February 25, 1998, it won the 1997 Grammy for Best Pop Album. In October the same year, Columbia issued the DVD Live at the Beacon Theater while Billboard magazine was honoring Taylor with their highest accolade, the Century Award.

By 2000, Taylor's first Greatest Hits collection had sold over 10 million copies, earning him the RIAA's Diamond Award. Taylor was also inducted into both the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2000 and at the end of the year, Columbia issued Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, covering the years 1977-1997. Fans who had waited five years for new material were awarded with October Road in 2002, an album earned two Grammy nominations and eventually went platinum. A year later, The Best of James Taylor became the first compilation to cover material from his years with Apple, Warner Bros., and Columbia. In 2004, he appeared on the television show The West Wing, released a Christmas Record and sang the national anthem before game two of the World Series.


 
     
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