With a distinctive playing style and soothing voice, James Taylor is undoubtedly one of the leading singer-songwriters of the early ’70s. His numerous hit singles like “Fire & Rain” and “You’ve Got A Friend,” are certified folk-rock staples.
With more than 13 full-length albums and a decades-long touring career, celebritynetworth.com estimates Taylor’s net worth to be a whopping $88 million, making him one of the best-selling musicians of all time.
In addition to more than 100 million records being sold worldwide, Taylor also has real estate across the U.S. A 145-acre estate he bought earlier on in his career is now worth close to $20 million. His family home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina has recently been sold to a new york couple to the tune of $1.6 million. The Taylor family originally bought the house in the 1970s for about $120,000.
Moving to Chapel Hill, North Carolina at an early age provided continued inspiration for the singer. The quaint, small-town acted as the perfect backdrop for the breezy musical style he developed later in his career.
Taylor began taking cello lessons as a kid before picking up the guitar in the early ’60s. While learning the instrument, he developed a distinctive technique derived from his background as a cellist—an idiosyncrasy that would later serve him well.
He first started seriously thinking about pursuing a career in music after encouragement from Danny Kortchmar, upon meeting the legendary guitarist on a family vacation to Martha’s Vinyard. Kortchmar later stated he knew Taylor would go on to hit the big time saying, “I knew James had that thing.”
Before he could take his place on the world’s stage though, he went through a tumultuous period in Junior year of high school, battling a newfound diagnosis of depression. In 1965, the singer checked himself into a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts where he received routine treatment for bipolar disorder. During his stint he began to get on top of the disease, calling the stay “a lifesaver.”
Sweet Baby James
Taylor launched his career in several different cities before landing in California. He first took a trip up to New York City where he formed a band called Flying Machine, which performed regularly around Greenwich Village. Soon after, Taylor found himself in another extended stay in a treatment facility for his addiction to heroin, returning to North Carolina in the mid-1960s.
After a six-month stay, Taylor then ventured to London and met with the head of A&R for the Beatles’ newly minted recording label, Apple Records. After impressing Peter Asher with a demo tape, Taylor signed to the record label and recorded his self-titled debut.
Still battling addiction and bipolar disorder, Taylor returned for a second stay in a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts after recording the album. In February of 1969, James Taylor was released only to middling success due to Taylor not being able to promote the record.
While recovering, Taylor committed himself to writing music for his follow-up effort. In the late ’60s, he took the leap, moving out to California and signing a deal with Warner Bros. Despite leaving Apple, he kept Asher as his manager—a driving force behind his eventual success.
His second album, Sweet Baby James, was released in February of 1970. Featuring songs like “Fire & Rain” and “Oh, Susannah,” the album found immediate success reaching No. 3 on the Billboard charts, selling more than $1.5 million copies, and clinching several Grammy Award nominations.
You’ve Got A Friend
With his star on the rise, Taylor released his third album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon in 1971. The album’s lead single was a cover of fellow singer-songwriter Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend.” His equally enticing version moved him up the charts, eventually taking the top spot. The song also won Taylor a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance.
His fourth and fifth albums, One Man Dog and Walking Man respectively, saw a lukewarm reaction from critics selling only 300,000 units in the U.S., but he returned to his former glory in 1975 with the Gold-certified Gorilla. The album featured one of his biggest hit singles, a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet Is Is (To Be Loved By You).” He continued his gold album run with In The Pocket in 1976.
Later, Taylor once again switched up record companies and signed with Columbia. Always one to keep the ball rolling, Taylor released three studio albums between 1977 and 1981 – JT, Flag, and Dad Loves His Work. A concert in Rio De Janeiro sparked even more inspiration for the singer leading to two more albums before the end of the decade.
After a six-year hiatus, he released the introspective album Hourglass in 1997. The album touched on his troubled past and family. His vulnerability won his best reviews in almost twenty years and won him yet another Grammy for Best Pop Album.
One track from the album “Jump Up Behind Me” acts as a tribute to his father who rescued him after the Flying Machine days, and the long drive from New York back to Chapel Hill. “Enough To Be on Your Way” was inspired by the alcoholism-related death of his brother Alex earlier in the decade.
Flanked by two greatest hits albums, Taylor’s Platinum-certified October Road pulls focus away from his past traumas. Chock full of quiet instrumentals and prosaic passages, the album saw Taylor in a much more peaceful frame of mind.
Since, Taylor has released four more studio albums, received numerous accolades, and performed at countless public events including US President Barrack Obama’s inaugural celebrations. His decades-long career has solidified him as one of the most celebrated and respected musicians of all time.
Photo Credit: Norman Seeff