Performance Wednesday, April 20, 2011 | 8 PM

James Taylor: Roots

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
This concert, in which James Taylor is joined by special guests, spotlights the variety of influences that have shaped Taylor’s music, from bluegrass and blues to church hymns.


  • Alison Kraus
  • Amy Grant
  • Danny Kortchmar
  • James Taylor
  • Jerry Douglas
  • Vince Gill
  • with special guests including:
    Robert Cray


    James Taylor


  • James Taylor

    In March 2011, James Taylor was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barak Obama in a ceremony at the White House. The medal is the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence recognizing "outstanding achievements and support of the arts."

    Taylor's music embodies the art of songwriting in its most fundamental form. He has been at it for decades, transforming introspective meditations into lyrics, melodies, and harmonies that comfort and reassure the listener with the sense that these sometimes painful, sometimes celebratory moments are a part of life shared by us all. In 1971, Taylor was featured on the cover of Time magazine, heralded as the harbinger of the singer-songwriter era. Today, this quintessential singer-songwriter has seen that era cross over into the 21st century.

    As a recording and touring artist, Taylor has set a precedent and blazed a path to which countless young musicians have aspired. His warm baritone is among the most recognized voices in popular music and his guitar-playing has established its own standard.

    Taylor has sold more than 50 million albums throughout his career, beginning in 1968 when he was signed to The Beatles' Apple Records.

    His songs have had a profound influence on both songwriters and music lovers of all generations and from all walks of life: "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," "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," "You Can Close Your Eyes," "Walking Man," "Never Die Young," "Shed a Little Light," "Copperline," "Caroline I See You," and many more.

    Throughout his long career, Taylor has earned 40 gold, platinum, and multi-platinum awards and five Grammy Awards for a catalog that runs from Sweet Baby James (1970) to Hourglass (1997) and October Road (2002). His first Greatest Hits album earned the Recording Industry Association of America's elite Diamond Award, given for sales in excess of 10 million units in the US. For his artistic accomplishments, Taylor was honored with the 1998 Century Award, Billboard magazine's highest accolade, bestowed for distinguished creative achievement.

    Taylor released Sweet Baby James in 1970. It went triple-platinum and spawned his first Top 10 hit, the intensely personal "Fire and Rain." The following year saw the release of another million-seller, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon, with the No. 1 single "You've Got a Friend," written by his longtime friend Carole King. The recording won a Grammy Award in 1971 for Best Pop Male Vocal. In 1972, Taylor scored another gold album with One Man Dog, followed up in 1973 with Walking Man.

    The album Gorilla (1975) included two more major chart entries: "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and "Mexico." Following his final Warner Brothers recording, In the Pocket, Taylor moved on to Columbia Records and released a string of critically praised and commercially successful albums: JT, his 1977 double-platinum Columbia debut; Flag (1979); Dad Loves His Work (1981); That's Why I'm Here (1985); Never Die Young (1988); New Moon Shine (1991); the double-disc Live album (1993); Hourglass (1998), garnering Taylor his first Grammy Award for Best Pop Album; and October Road (2002)-all certified platinum.

    The year 2000 saw Taylor's induction into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the prestigious Songwriters Hall of Fame. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences selected him as its MusiCares Person of the Year in 2006, and his One Man Band (2007) was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special in 2008. Taylor's 2008 release, Covers, was nominated for two Grammy Awards and lead to the aptly titled follow-up, Other Covers.

    In May 2010, Taylor released the Live at the Troubadour CD/DVD of his November 2007 live performance with Carole King at the Troubadour nightclub in Los Angeles. Their subsequent Troubadour Reunion tour was one of the most successful concert tours of the decade. Most recently, Morgan Neville's acclaimed documentary, Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter was nominated for the Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was recently broadcast on PBS as part of its prestigious American Masters series.

    Taylor has received honorary doctorates of music from Williams College and the Berklee School of Music. Raised in North Carolina, he now lives in western Massachusetts with his wife Caroline and their sons Henry and Rufus.
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“Sweet Baby James”
James Taylor
Hear Music

Perspectives: James Taylor

I was hugely flattered to be asked to host a Perspectives series and to create a celebration of Carnegie Hall’s 120th birthday. We have been working up to this for the last two years. Carnegie Hall offered and we jumped right in.

Carnegie Hall is the top theater in the top town. It is an icon for performing artists, its very name means success. The first time I played here, in 1970, was the first time I was ever in the Hall I had been hearing about since I was a child. From the moment I walked in the door, it lived up to my expectations and to my imagination.

As part of this Perspectives, we are planning a series of four different concerts, starting with an all-star Gala on April 12. We continue with a Roots evening on April 20, focusing on the music I listened to growing up. In Guitar Conversations on May 6, I talk about guitar playing in general and my own style in particular—and get to play with a couple of my favorite guitarists. On May 9, we wrap up our short season in the spotlight with a program modestly titled Quintessential James Taylor, in which my band and I play what we consider our very best songs and attempt to live up to the honor Carnegie Hall has bestowed on me by inviting me to organize this series.

Carnegie Hall is the sort of venue that focuses a performer’s attention. Everyone who plays here wants to be at his very best. The world recognizes this as one of the great venues for classical music, but it is important to remember that folk music got played here, too. Blues, swing, R&B, and jazz were performed here. Rock ‘n’ roll got played here. Strauss, Gershwin, Sinatra, and The Beatles have all stood on this stage.

No series of concerts can summarize all the great music that Carnegie Hall has seen in its first 12 decades. What we can do is take a few evenings to be grateful for all the wonderful performers who have passed through, and hope to add a couple of appropriate links to the ongoing chain.

—James Taylor

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Program Notes
James Taylor's Perspectives series is made possible, in part, by The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.
This performance is part of Around the Globe.

Part of