The music and lyrics of a James Taylor song can soothe a broken heart, make you dance in the kitchen, or add that sumpin-sumpin to an open sunroof ride on a fall day. James Taylor has been a part of my life since I can’t remember when. The first time I stepped foot into the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, aka SPAC, I was too young to drive there myself. I will never forget the smell of Adirondack Pines, the cool evening summer breeze, and the sound of his voice. (Lesson One)
James Taylor is more than just Fire and Rain
Music is compelling. An artist opens their heart and soul to share moments in their lives that are private and painful in the hope it will heal you and them. I once saw James Taylor at Tanglewood. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and the mellow vibe of a James Taylor crowd was intoxicating. The songs were our favorites, and the crowd sang along.
James spoke a little more than usual this time and shared some insight into his songs’ background. I don’t think I will ever hear Fire and Rain again with hearing his voice and feeling a deeper connection. (Lesson Two)
I said goodbye to a friend with Carolina in My Mind
When I was in high school, I had a class with a guy who shared my love of James Taylor music, specifically Carolina in My Mind. Back then, albums came with the lyrics in the sleeve inside the jacket. I was babysitting that Saturday night, and the parents had a spectacular collection of James Taylor’s albums. I found the lyrics for Carolina. I wrote them down to bring to school for my friend.
That same weekend he died in a car accident, and I had the lyrics in my purse. Many of us attended the wake and funeral. Those lyrics weighed heavy in my heart. Unsure what to do with them, I mailed them to his family with a note. I think of him every single time I hear that song. I will never forget him. (Lesson Three)
Since the late 1970s, I have taken numerous dates and boyfriends to a JT show at SPAC. That didn’t sound too good, but you get the idea. I had one boyfriend who asked me, before the intermission, if we could leave. Yes, he didn’t last. I had another date who sat on the lawn with me, under the August starry sky, held my hand, and waived our lighters until James played the last chord. That boyfriend lasted quite a while.
But it wasn’t until I saw James Taylor with my husband that I knew for sure that Chip was the one. Chip and I saw James several times. Knowing the background of the story, he shed a tear when James sang Carolina in My Mind. Chip knows I can’t carry a tune and indulges me when I belt out Up on the Roof or Mexico. He is my James Taylor soulmate, and 31 years later, we look forward to sitting on the lawn at SPAC or Tanglewood to enjoy the music and a beautiful summer evening. (Lesson Four)
Hey Google. Please play James Taylor Secret of Life
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. So simple and yet so deeply profound. Time does pass, and at almost 60, I look back with little regret and a lot of knowledge. I see my children build their lives, and music is a part of it. Jack’s music is deep and soulful, except when he works out. Then I have no idea what is happening. Amelia’s is lighter and upbeat and has a country music soul. Very Amelia. Chip and I run the gamut from David Sanborn to Zac Brown. It is usually the lyrics that inspire Chip. It is the Dire Straits beat of the Sultans of Swing, and the 70’s groovy sound of Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl), by The Looking Glass that gets my toes tapping.
I turn to James Taylor to remind me to smile, heal a sad heart, or celebrate a good day. I continue to chase the secret of life, but I think I already know it. The secret is in the lessons learned from James Taylor, his music and lyrics.
Thank you for being a part of my life and impacting so many lives worldwide. Your songs have been danced to at weddings, and I’m sure, laid people to rest. Prom themes, birthday parties, and beer toasts on a dock, your willingness to share your heart and soul, have touched so many. You are part of the memories of people you have never met. How spectacular is that? It is easy for me to comment on your life when, in fact, I have no idea of the struggles you faced and overcame. I hope you find peace, and if you ever need a pizza on a Friday night, you, and the family, including Ting, are welcome anytime!
Whenever I am on the Mass Pike, and I pass the little green sign that says, Stockbridge, I sing a little Sweet Baby James through those dreamlike Berkshires.
Hug your pug; I’ll hug mine. Please know I sincerely thank you for vetting my dates, encouraging a romantic dance in my kitchen, and singing my babies to sleep.