ASCAP Founders Award
"Some are like summer, coming back every year
Got your baby, got your blanket, got your bucket of beer
I break into a grin from ear to ear
And suddenly its perfectly clear
Thats why Im here"
Thats Why Im Here © 1985
What James Taylor means to us is hard to put into mere words. How do you do justice to all he has given to us and all that we have been through together? His voice, words and music have carried us from the turbulent times of the Vietnam War, when he first emerged, through one generation and well into another. James has often cited the disparate but complementary influences of Sam Cooke, Stephen Foster, Aaron Copland, John Hurt and George Jones. Like them, he is the architect of a style of American music all his own one that lifts the spirit, soothes the soul and speaks the truth. And like most magicians, he makes what he does seem effortless. Part of the brilliance of James work lies in the mere simplicity, familiarity and ease it communicates amidst its erudite musicality and lyrical splendor. His songs mirror our own life and times, offering a consistency that has never let us down, through his and our own trials and tribulations.
James Taylor not only setthe precedent for solo singer/ songwriter/ instrumentalists achieving success as recording and touring artists, he made it a cool and desirable role one to which millions of earnest singer/songwriters have since aspired. His warm and inviting tenor instinctively seems to attract the inflections and embellishments that grace his unforgettable melodies. His distinctive voice is among the most recognized and beloved in popular music. Another facet of his prodigious talent is his guitar playing, which significantly raised the standard for singer/songwriters accompanying themselves with six strings.
But above and beyond all else, there are the songs: "Fire and Rain," "Country Road," "Something In The Way She Moves," "Mexico," "Shower the People," "Your Smiling Face," "Carolina In My Mind," "Sweet Baby James," "Dont Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," "You Can Close Your Eyes," "Walking Man," "Never Die Young," "Shed a Little Light," "Copperline." His songs reflect a passion for self-expression and a dedication to the constant evolution of his craft; and they have had a vast, profound influence on both songwriters and music lovers of all generations and from all walks of life. Today it is no surprise to see children discovering his songs through their parents record collection and immediately falling in love with the down-home intonation of his voice, the appeal of his earthy lyrics, and his contagious, sing-along choruses.
James started writing music in the mid 1960s as a student at a New England boarding school, far removed from his family and friends back down in the piedmont pine groves of Chapel Hill, NC. After experiencing episodes of depression and restlessness, James decided to leave the strict conventions of prep school behind and pursue his own path as a songwriter and musician, moving to New York City and collaborating with childhood friend Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar in the short lived band, The Flying Machine. Subsequently moving to London to further his career, James was introduced to Paul McCartney by his soon to be producer/manager, Peter Asher, and signed to the Beatles Apple record label. Although his 1968 self-titled debut was critically well received, offering the future classics "Carolina In My Mind" and "Something In The Way She Moves," Apple records suffered from poor financial management and soon went bankrupt.
Undeterred, James packed up his notebook and guitar and headed home back across the Atlantic to continue the search for his place in the world. He was quickly picked up by Warner Brothers Records, for whom he recorded six albums. His first release in 1970, Sweet Baby James, was his introduction to the music world at large, and it proved to be a truly monumental recording, containing the title track "Sweet Baby James," "Country Road" and his most enduring hit, the sadly cathartic "Fire and Rain." He followed up on his debut with Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon in 1971, on which he demonstrated his agility in moving between melancholic mementos ("Soldiers," "Hey Mister, Thats Me Up On The Jukebox"), pleasant lullabies ("Isnt It Nice To Be Home Again"), and euphoric anthems concerning salvation and freedom ("Let Me Ride," "Love Has Brought Me Around"). Mud Slide Slim was widely considered both an artistic and commercial success, since it also included the major hit "Youve Got a Friend," written by good friend Carole King. On the next four albums, One Man Dog (1972), Walking Man (1974), Gorilla (1975), and In The Pocket (1976), James explored new production aesthetics, using some very well known singers and studio musicians including Carole King, Linda Rondstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Art Garfunkel, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Michael Brecker and David Sanborn to provide lush textures to his compositions which were anchored by his core band of Leland Sklar (bass), Russell Kunkel (drums), and Kortchmar (guitar). These classic recording sessions yielded the songs "Dont Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," "Walking Man," "Mexico," "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," "Shower The People," and "Everybody Has The Blues." In 1976, James released his Greatest Hits, Vol. 1, one of the biggest selling catalog titles of all time, for which he won a Diamond award for ten million plus copies in worldwide sales.
In 1977 James delivered JT, a masterpiece of diversity that featured his signature literate folk sensibility on songs like the insightful "Secret O Life" and "If I Keep My Heart Out Of Sight," juxtaposed with the syncopated funk rhythms of "Traffic Jam" and "Honey Dont Leave L.A.," and the soul influenced stylings of "Handyman" and "Your Smiling Face." The 1980s saw James career continue on its brilliant trajectory as he produced one stellar album after another, adding the songs "Millworker," "That Lonesome Road," "Summers Here," "Hard Times," "Thats Why Im Here," "Only One," "Sun On The Moon," "Never Die Young" and "First of May" to his already deep, varied and cherished library of songs.
James branched out in the 1990s, recording only two studio albums - New Moon Shine (1991) and Hourglass (1997), preferring to trade the studio for the road. He stayed extremely busy maintaining an intensive international touring schedule during which he recorded many of the live performances, resulting in an extremely popular double-disc set that captured the energy, lyrical spontaneity and spirited audience interaction common in his concerts (Live, 1993). James also made guest appearances singing and playing guitar on two Americana records featuring the all-star chamber ensemble of Mark OConnor, Edgar Meyer, and Yo-Yo Ma (Liberty, 1997; Appalachian Journey, 2000). Lately, the man known for being a consummate wanderer has concentrated on spending more time at home with his wife Caroline and their one year-old twins, Henry and Rufus.
James Taylor has earned 40 gold, platinum, and multi-platinum awards over the course of his career from Sweet Baby James to Hourglass to 1998's platinum-selling Live At The Beacon Theatre DVD/VHS release. That same year Billboard magazine honored James with the Century Award, their highest accolade, bestowed for distinguished creative achievement. The start of the millennium was an exceptionally good year for James; he was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the prestigious Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
James Taylors music embodies the process of songwriting in its most fundamental art. He transforms introspective meditations into emotionally revealing lyrics, melodies, and harmonies that comfort and reassure the listener with the idea that these sometimes painful, sometimes celebratory moments in life are shared by us all.
ASCAP is very pleased to honor James Taylor with the Founders Award for his pioneering contributions to music. His inimitable style of storytelling has had an immense influence on countless songwriters, and his musical legacy will enrich generations to come.