Nobody defines the sensitive singer/songwriter more than American musician James Vernon Taylor. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a warm, approachable singing style, Taylor took a different approach to music than that of the '60s protest folk singers. Rather than chanting about oppression, the maladies of society, or the violence of war, Taylor's tunes shifted the public's glance inward. He wrote soothing, introspective numbers about loss, heartbreak, love, friendship, and self-discovery (it wouldn't be a stretch considering him a proto emo rocker) that helped America recover from the great hangover that was the 1960s.
Taylor first rose to prominence in 1970 with the endearing track "Fire and Rain," a strikingly personal song that dealt with the suicide of a childhood friend and Taylor's time spent in a mental institution. This dark number eventually landed at number three on the Billboard charts and led the way to Taylor's second album, Sweet Baby James, a massive, breakout success.
Taylor would follow that up a year later with his first number-one hit, a captivating take on Carole King's classic "You've Got a Friend." Although considered one of King's most essential works, Taylor made the song completely his own (many to this day recognize it only as his) and went on to win a Grammy for it in '71 for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
Taylor also landed on the cover of Time magazine around this time as leader of the newly minted "singer/songwriter" movement. This opened the Taylor tune floodgates; his emotionally delicate songs would become as ubiquitous in the '70s as bell-bottoms and polyester suits.
Taylor, however, did not get cemented in that era; he crafted a career that has spanned five decades, winning a total of five Grammys and selling more than 100 million copies of his albums. Suffice to say, Taylor is a true American icon. South Florida is lucky to have this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer performing on our shores this Saturday. Alex Rendon
James Taylor and the All-Star Band. 8 p.m. Saturday, November 15, at the BB&T Center, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise. Tickets start at $30.75 to $95.25 plus fees. Call 954-835-7000, or visit thebbtcenter.com.