Über James Taylor
A folkie with a dark past, upbeat sound and clear pop inclinations, James Taylor was the poster boy for the '70s singer-songwriter movement. He had personal or professional ties to almost all of the era's stars, including Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon -- his wife of more than a decade -- and several of his hits, including "Fire and Rain" and his cover of King's "You've Got a Friend," are definitive. Taylor came from a musical family -- three siblings were professional musicians -- and got his first break when Paul McCartney signed him to the Beatles' Apple Records in 1968. By then, he had already endured a 10-month stay in a psychiatric hospital for depression and was battling heroin addiction. That back-story colored his music. The collision of confessional songwriting and bright, catchy acoustic pop on Taylor's early records established the model for legions of folk-poppers. He continued racking up hits throughout the '70s with a combination of breezy originals and rootsy covers. The template has hardly changed in the ensuing decades, though hints of jazz and the classic pop songbook shine through on later albums.