For a man who's still of relatively tender age, John Mayer has chalked up quite a career. With a prolific output that's taken him from Pop to Blues and earned more accolades than most artists achieve in a lifetime, he's managed to secure his place in the spotlight for the past decade, both personally and professionally. Indeed, there are many sides to the multi-talented Mr. Mayer, although his ability to court controversy hasn't always brought him the kind of publicity he might have hoped for. Mayer turns 34 today and to mark the occasion, we offer a glance at the oftentimes contradictory sides of this eager overachiever.
From serious to superfluous and back to serious again: There are those who don't know better and think of Mayer as merely a pop star thanks to early hits like "Georgia" and "Your Body Is a Wonderland," songs that brought both chart success and multiple Grammy nods. But early on, Mayer demonstrated he had higher ambitions. Trained as a serious musician at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, he clearly had the potential to appeal to more than the teeny boppers. His immersion in Blues may have seemed an abrupt change of course, but it wasn't done on a whim. He's collaborated with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, B.B. King and John Scofield, performed at Bonnaroo and Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, reaped ample awards and, in 2007, was pictured on the cover of Rolling Stone alongside John Frusciante and Derek Trucks. He was referred to as one of the "New Guitar Gods" and even nicknamed "Slowhand, Jr.," a reference to the handle once given Mr. Clapton.
Ironically, this transition has transpired over the course of only four studio albums. A new offering was originally due this month, but delayed due to the discovery of nodules on his vocal chords. The release is now scheduled for early next year.
Meaningful moments: Mayer's been very specific about the source of his inspiration. Although clarinet was his instrument of choice in high school, he claims that he decided to take up guitar after watching Michael J. Fox's musical turn as Marty McFly in the film Back to the Future. His interest in the Blues began after a neighbor gave him a Stevie Ray Vaughn cassette, and he later honed his skills in local blues bar. At age 17, he was hospitalized with cardiac dysrhythmia, and during his period of recovery, he turned to songwriting for the first time. It was an appearance at the industry-intensive South By Southwest where he was sighted by start-up label Aware Records and subsequently signed.
Turning into a techie: Mayer had a personal connection with the late Steve Jobs, thanks to an invitation extended to him by the Apple founder in 2004. Mayer performed during Apple's annual Macworld Conference when Jobs demonstrated the company's new GarageBand software. He paid an encore visit to the conference in 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone. He's also made an endorsement for the BlackBerry Curve.
In addition, Mayer has loaned his name to several signature guitars, in addition to his collaboration on a custom-designed amplifier.
Good press, bad press: Mayer's performed benefits for several charities in addition to initiating several philanthropic endeavors of his own. In 2002, he established the Back to You Fund, a not-for-profit organization that contributes to health care, education and the arts through the auction of exclusive John Mayer merchandise. In addition, he holds his annual Charity Revue, which raises for money for Toys for Tots and numerous other charitable organization.
Unfortunately, the good will generated by these endeavors has occasionally been overshadowed by some unexpected gaffs. Last year, he opted to use the 'N' word in a Playboy interview while attempting to explain his apparent acceptance in the 'hood. He followed up by sharing his disdain for Black women as potential sleeping partners: "I don't think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I've got a Benetton heart and a fuckin' David Duke cock. I'm going to start dating separately from my dick."
Personal affairs: It's not surprising then that Mayer's musical repute has often taken second place to his reputation as a ladies man. He's gone so far as to declare himself a "douche bag" for his fickle treatment of the opposite sex. Indeed, he's developed a reputation as a womanizer, a trait which has made him a frequent target of the tabloids.
The list of Hollywood hotties with whom he's rumored to have had romantic trysts could provide TMZ with enough juicy fodder to carry them through several seasons. Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson, Taylor Swift and Jennfier Love Hewitt have all been tied to Mayer at one time or another. Unfortunately, he seems prone to kiss and tell; he claims he never consummated his relationship with Hewitt, but later characterized his fling with Simpson as "sexual napalm." "That girl, for me, is a drug," he told Playboy. "And drugs aren't good for you if you do lots of them. Yeah, that girl is like crack cocaine to me... Sexually it was crazy. That's all I'll say." Speaking of which, the break-up with Aniston was especially explosive. Perhaps she wasn't crazy enough.
During the interview, Mayer also admitted his preference for porn.
"When I watch porn, if it's not hot enough, I'll make up back stories in my mind," he admitted. "My biggest dream is to write pornography."
And with that, I suspect we have all the information we need.