Birthday Post

March 12, 2008

What do Darryl Strawberry, Liza Minnelli, and James Taylor have in common?  Okay, yes, they all have had problems with substance abuse.  Let me be a bit more specific.  What do they (and Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne) have in common with me?

Yup, that’s right.  Today is our birthday.  All of us.   And, I’m happy to the report that of the five of us, I’m the youngest.

I’ve never been much of a Liza Minnelli fan — just not my style of entertainment — and though I liked Darryl Strawberry when he was with the Mets, I was deeply disappointed in the way his career ended.  I’m sure he was too.  But I have been a fan of James Taylor since I was seven years old and my older brother first played for me his brand new copy of Sweet Baby James.  When the rest of my friends were listening to Free To Be You and Me and other insipid kids’ music, I was listening to Mud Slide Slim and One Man Dog.  When my cool friends in junior high were listening to Zeppelin and CSN and the Dead, I was too, but I was also listening to Gorilla and In the Pocket.  I didn’t tell my friends, of course.  James wasn’t cool; at least he wasn’t to them.  Once I reached high school I started caring less what other people thought of my musical taste.  I listened to JT and Flag and Dad Loves His Work, and I didn’t hide it from anyone.

I still listen to James Taylor.  I have pretty much every album he’s put out (except for the disc of Christmas tunes and some greatest hits collections made up of songs I already have on other recordings).  And I still encounter people who make it clear to me that this is not cool music, that it’s too mellow, too close to “Easy Listenin'”.  I couldn’t care less.  For me James Taylor’s music is like New York style pizza.  It’s like Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry.  It’s like M*A*S*H reruns.  It might not be the finest music in the world, but it’s familiar, and it’s comforting, and it’s damn good.

Taylor’s lyrics have always been sensitive and insightful.  At times they’re brilliant.  The song “Gaia” on the Hourglass album might be the most moving elegy for our environment anyone has written.  His melodies manage to be appealing without being trite.  

It’s been forty years since his first release; thirty-eight since “Fire and Rain” reached number 3 on the Billboard Top Forty. Taylor has enjoyed a good deal of success at points in his career.  He’s experienced lean periods as well.  But he never sold out, never tailored (pardon the pun) his sound to the market.  Forty years.  You’ve got to admire that.

James Taylor turns sixty today.  And as one birthday boy to another, I wish him the best, and I thank him for all that his music has given me over the years.

Today’s music:  “One Man Dog”

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6 Responses to “Birthday Post”

  1. Brian said

    I love James Taylor, but I was wondering if you’ve ever heard Livingston Taylor? I remember hearing a few songs years ago, and I liked them alot too.

  2. Brian said

    PS- Happy birthday!

  3. Tina Parker said

    Happy Birthday!

    It doesn’t get much better than Copperline and Going to Carolina in My Mind. Unless, of course, you count, Fire and Rain.

  4. davidbcoe said

    Thanks all three of you for the birthday wishes and the kind comments. Brian, I have heard Livingston’s stuff and I’ve always enjoyed it. I don’t think he’s as good a songwriter as James, but he has a terrific voice, and his albums are great fun.

  5. Ibrahim said

    Happy Birthday! I’ve never actually paid attention to artists but i’ll have to check out this James Taylor.:)

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