MOJO – September 1997


“James Taylor: Immense Singer, Considerable Cranium”


September 1997

Timothy White

James Taylor: smoothly crafty songsmithery his stock-in-trade. Or is it?
Timothy White meets the troubled artist behind 1997’s most quietly
successful comeback.

So the sun shines on this funeral

Just the same as on a birth

The way it shines on everything

That happens here on earth.

It rolls across the western sky

And back into the sea

And spends the day’s last rays

Upon this fucked-up family.

“Enough To Be On Your Way,”

– James Taylor, 1997

“A reading from the book of Revelation: The New Jerusalem,” announces
the rangy man at the foot of the altar, peering down at the open
Scripture through wire-rimmed glasses as he towers over the bowed
heads of the congregation.

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the
first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea,” James Taylor
gently recites, his sombre nasal sonority familiar but authoritative.
“And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God
out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband . . . ”

Several hundred people are assembled in the Church of the New Covenant
in Boston’s Back Bay on the morning of November 30, 1996 for a memorial
service for Taylor’s father, who died on November 3 at the age of 75.Dr
Isaac ‘Ike’ Montrose Taylor II was a graduate of Harvard Medical School,
lieutenant commander in the United States Navy, former chief resident at
Massachusetts General Hospital, Dean of the Medical School of the
University of North Carolina and sire of a famed generation of musical

“The ‘New Jerusalem’ passage had a lot of layers of meaning for my
father,” James confides some months later when we meet to talk about his
life and work. “The biblical aspect of a new beginning is there, and
settlers coming to this country who were looking for the same sort of
new start, but also my dad had a sailboat that he dearly n loved, and
he named it New Jerusalem.”

The balding Taylor often seems spindly and careworn, but up close he
is sinewy and boyishly patrician. Dressed in a brown turtleneck,
caramel cords and rubber-soled leather brogues, his wiry frame is
crisply muscled, and his clear eyed gaze blends intelligence with
diffidence. Whenever our conversation veers off into the wildlife
or topography of New England or the Tidewater South, Taylor is an
astute amateur naturalist, and, as politics arise, his once-risky
leftist, Civil Rights activist views now sound positively senatorial.

What sets Taylor apart from most of his privileged lineage is a
lacerating degree of self-knowledge, enforcing a humility that melds
simple gratitude with a gripping survival instinct. The shadow that
sometimes falls across James’s intense stare when he forces himself to
recount his family torments is perhaps the grim certainty that nothing
guarantees anything, yet people are still worth depending on.

This June, taylor released Hourglass, now well on its way to becoming
the singer-songwriter ‘s biggest commercial success since 1970’s
three-million-selling Sweet Baby James landed him on the cover of Time
magazine. Taylor hasn’t been a substantial concern for UK album buyers
in the period since Mud slide Slim And The Blue Horizon followed Sweet
Baby James into the Top 10 in the summer of 1971, yet Taylor’s sound
has always drawn from the music of his English and Scottish ancestry
as transplanted in the emergent culture of the New World.

Taylor’s recording career took shape in London, quite literally in the
shadow of The Beatles. Apple Records A&R chief Pete Asher signed James
and produced his debut album in 1968, in between the Fabs recording or
mixing works-in-progress like Hey Jude, While My Guitar Gently Weeps,
and Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey.
Taylor, who was living in Notting Hill, had a monkey of his own that
was attracting unwanted attention. Before he could promote his
self-titled Apple album; James would have to seek treatment at the
Austin Riggs hospistal in Massacchussets for a nagging heroin habit
he’d acquired two years previously in New York’s Greenwich Village.

That Taylor would ultimately conquer his addiction, survive his initial
struggles with superstardom, and grow in artistic stature in the
aftermath of his flamboyant but ill-fated 10-year marriage to Carly
Simon are now part of his lengthening legend as a self-effacing kinsman
of Jimmie Rodgers, Hoagy Carmichael, Ewan MacColl and other
troubadour-stylists of Anglo-American song. In tribute, Garth Brooks
named his daughter Taylor, and Sting cites him as the contemporary
performer he most admires “because he’s always been both a complete
natural and a complete original. His singing and his sound are always
contemporary and yet timeless, totally immune to mere fashion.”

Fans who’ve spent decades combing Taylor’s lyrics for drugs allusions
or clues to romantic attachments have allowed a few loose threads to
distract them from the larger tapestry: his immigrant heritage and its
thematic underpinnings of much of his music. Most of Taylor’s
songwriting concerns itself with restlessness, wanderlust, the lure of
travel and the lives of the soldiers, troubadours, outlaws and hobos
drawn to it. When James hasn’t authored such picaresque ditties and
musical narratives, he has borrowed from the time-hallowed song and
air canon of Scottish-Irish tradition, interpreting folk ballads like
One Morning In May, Wandering and The Water Is Wide. Peopled by those
who traverse it seeking fortune, glory or forgetfulness in its farther
shores, the bounding main and its briny depths are unceasingly evoked,
whether to connote beauty and loneliness, signify redemption or renewal,
recall a directionless time, represent a new beginning, announce the
end of the line, or simply extend an occasion to splash about.

Descended from Scottish seafarers who sailed to America in the late
1700s, James Taylor toiled as a 12-year-old on the decks on his Uncle
Henry’s trawlers – “knee-high in live flounder, tossing the trash fish
overboard with a spiked pole” and now spends his 49th summer tacking
with his own single-masted sloop off Nantucket Sound. The mariner novels
by Patrick O’Brian like Master And Commander and The Wine-Dark Sea about
the Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
(1792-1815) are, he enthuses, “ripping yarns of the sea that illuminate
the evolution of an era that encompassed the migrations of my ancestors.”

The Taylor ancestry actually features in this renowned 17-book series
among the genuine ships, incidents and personages from the annals of
maritime trade and naval adventure. In The Wine-Dark Sea, Captain Jack
Aubrey’s privateering crew on the HMS Surprise see a bobbing barrel in
choppy waters off South America. They examine the cask, and deduce it’s
a “Bedford hog”, as used by the whaling ships out of Massachusetts.
“Then how come it has Isaac Taylor’s mark?” asks one deck-hand,
referring to an eminent Scottish merchant resettled on the North Carolina coast.

That a forefather of the fellow who sang Shower The People should play
a bit-part in these storm-tossed tales throws fresh light onto three
decades of songwriting. The known Taylor pedigree stretches back to the
Angus coast of Scotland. From Marykirk, Kincardineshire, the Taylors
had shipping interests in the nearby coastal town of Montrose, in 1790
a crowded crossroads for naval vessels and privateers. The fourth son
out of eight children, the original Isaac Taylor sought in America both
his fortune and escape from the social and religious vicissitudes then
besetting Scotland. Settling in a plantation outside New Bern, North
Carolina, Isaac traded with the West Indies and prospered mightily— even
despite his ship, the Rainbow, being temporarily seized off the coast
of the Caicos Islands in April 1799 by two French privateers, but
rescued by none other than the real-life HMS Surprise, only to be
forfeited to the British Crown to recoup the cost of its recapture.

When Isaac Taylor died in 1846, he left most of his extensive holdings
(which included 7 5 slaves ranging from 11 -month-old Betty to
64-year-old Bill Foy) to his wife and six daughters. His son Alexander
was cut out of the will because his drinking habits were considered

“All these matters run pretty deep,” says James Taylor, “and the Civil
War was about to change all of them forever.” In 1863 Union soldiers
commandeered the Taylor house for the headquarters of the 45th
Massachusetts Regiment. (Two old-maid Taylor sisters, who continued to
live on the third floor of the mansion, refused to co-operate with the
Yankees, and had their provisions raised to their window by pulley.
Mrs Alexander Taylor, known locally as the ‘Prison Mother’ for her work
nursing Confederate inmates, also spied for the rebels and ran an
underground mail service.)

At the end of the Civil War the Taylors abandoned plantation life for
the professions of medicine and law, moving to Morganton, 200 miles
north-west of New Bern. Isaac Montrose Taylor 1, one of Alexander
Taylor’s two sons, begat another physician son, Alexander Taylor II—
James’s grandfather. “My grandmother, Theodosia Haynes, fell in love
with my grandfather, and her sudden marriage came as a shock to the
Haynes family. There was a tradition in my family that wives would
deliver the children at home, and so my great-grandfather Isaac was
the doctor in charge. Theodosia died two weeks after giving birth to
my father, having contracted ‘childbirth fever ‘ – basically a uterine
infection after my great-grandfather went in after the placenta.
Naturally, the Haynes wanted to know how she died, and were told it
had been tuberculosis. But then the truth came out and there was a
major rift and a scandal. My great-grandfather became suicidal and
died about two months later from drink. ”

This Gothic tragedy next claimed the inconsolable Alexander Taylor II,
who was so overcome by whiskey-aggravated grief that he couldn’t bear
the responsibility of bringing up his new son, James’s father Ike. “My
father was raised by his aunt and uncle. My father’s father was pretty
much an abandoned alcoholic – there was nothing they could do for you
before 19 3 5. The shame propelled my dad to succeed from an early age;
he felt he had something to prove.” Dr Taylor was doing his residency at
Massachusetts General when he met James’s mom, Trudy, daughter of a
musical family in the commercial fishing and boat-building business.
They were married in 1946, settling in suburban Weston, Massachusetts.
Offspring Alex, James, Katherine (aka Kate), and Livingston were all
born in Boston, but Ike wanted to return home to North Carolina, where
last child Hugh was delivered.

“He was a very principled person always,” says James Taylor of the
father about whom he penned assorted sombre songs over the years,
including Walking Man, Only For Me and Jump Up Behind Me, the last a
wistful anthem of rescue from Hourglass. “And he was very
liberal-going-toward-socialist in his political leanings, so we shared
an adamant outrage at the political system throughout our lives. I’d
also describe him as an alcoholic, but in a very controlled way.

“He was a very sexy, earthy guy, not a dry person at all. But he was a
very lonely fellow, very driven and submerged.” James shakes his head
ruefully at the memory of Ike Taylor’s decision to resume life in the
South. “My father, in moving back to North Carolina, basically
reengaged his family drama.” The transplanted Taylors holed up in a
restored farmhouse in a wheat and barley field in Carrboro near Chapel
Hill, Trudy stocking the Victrola with Woody Guthrie, light opera and
Leadbelly. A woman named Effie Hairston showed up one morning, looking
for work, and got a job for the next 20 years as the family cook,
wetnurse and helpmate. The Taylors were like that: spontaneous and
trusting in an otherwise cautious and conservative province.

“Chapel Hill, the Piedmont, the outlying hills, were rural, beautiful
but quiet says James. “The soil, the seasons, the way things smelled
down there, I feel as though my coming of age was more a matter of
landscape and climate than people. There was nobody around! I think it
was hard on my mother, ‘cos she was very isolated down there, out of
her element; Carolina in the early ’50s was culture shock for somebody
used to Boston, so she focused on us kids.”

James’s first instrument, brought home from elementary school, was the
cello. A more rustic musical influence soon invaded the household via
the accordion, harmonica and banjo; and a friend showed the children
how to yodel by spinning a silver dollar in a creamery bowl, its ceramic
bell shaping a tone against which their wobbly warbling could be gauged.
“We sang African songs, union songs, folk hymns and radio jingles for
snuff, ” recalls James . “And for Christmas when I was 12 I got a
nylon-stringed mail order guitar from Schirmer & Company in New York,
which my brother Alex promptly repainted solid blue – the strings too.
I think he was looking for the expression on my face.”

James remembers helping his dad clear land one June, painting a skiff
with him another July, or fixing up a shack in the woods one autumn that
the kids used. But mostly Ike was missing in action, teaching, doctoring,
doing medical research. In 1953 the family took the first of their
annual summer vacations in Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of
Massachusetts, the New England summer ritual “a lifeline for my lonely
mother”. But by 1955 Ike Taylor was called to fulfill the two years’
military service he’d deferred | for medical school. Ike was offered
an assignment at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, a posting that
would have permitted him to return home regularly. But instead he
volunteered for Phase I of the pioneering and perilous Operation Deep
freeze, joining l ,800 Seabees and Navy specialists on a fleet of
seven ships sent to establish bases at Kainan Bay and McMurdo Sound,
at the edge of Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf. Lieutenant Commander Ike
Taylor would be a base physician at McMurdo, whose encampment on the
glacial ‘ice piedmont’ hugged the base of Mt Erebus, the South Pole’s
only active volcano.

“I think it was an escape from the harness of his shamed existence in
Carolina,” says James. “Ships and planes can’t reach the Antarctic most
of the year, and there were no phones, so we could only communicate by
a periodic mail packet. At one point in 1956, my mom took a photo of us
kids on the porch of our house, saluting dad, just so he knew what we
all looked like. It was tough for us who missed him a lot, and very
rough on my mom the he had even decided to do this. And for him, there
was nothing to do up there but work, avoid fatal frostbite, and drink.

“His re-entry after a couple of years was difficult. There were some
difficulties for him just living in his own skin, and then he came back
from a world of men in authority to a world of women in authority,
because by that time it was my mother ‘s house. On some level he never
really got back into the house, or our lives, or his marriage. My little
brother Hughie was justs cared of him; he said, ‘Who is this wild man?’
That absence and return became a major feature of my family, which sorta
broke up when my parents divorced in 1972.”

For his part, James, 13, went looking for surrogate families, most of
them musical. Enduringly, he found 15-year-old Danny ‘Kootch’ Kortchmar,
whose folks summered in the Vineyard hamlet of Chilmark. Kortchmar was
one of a loose aggregation of eager young musicians who haunted the
Vineyard’s coffee houses and folk parlours. He and James initially met
behind the post office where the moody Taylor, known on the island as
‘Stringbean’, found the broody Kootch, perpetually dressed in black
and nicknamed ‘Happy’, as he was fooling with a new throwing knife .

“James was into my knife and eventually we each bought four or five
knives apiece, throwing them at anything that didn’t move, ” Kortchmar
laughs. When James pulled out his harmonica, Kootch proposed they
hitchhike to his folks’ cottage to get his acoustic guitar. Inspired,
James went back to Chapel Hill that autumn and honed his own guitar
chops, writing his first song, Roll River Roll. A year afterwards,
James joined his brother Alex’s band, The Fabulous Corsairs. Now
armed with a Fender Mustang, James learned enough as he played gigs at
high school hops and frat parties so that “he was a pretty good player
the following summers,” as Kootch recollects. “I’d put on Lightnin’
Hopkins albums like Last Night Blues on Prestige, and we’d sit and learn
to play Rocky Mountain and Custard Pie together. We won a folk singing
contest that was supposed to get us $50 and a chance to play the
Unicorn coffee house in Boston. But we doubted we’d get our prize after
we heard that Jesse Fuller had to pull a piece on someone at the local
branch of the Unicorn in Oak Bluffs in order to get paid…”

Meanwhile, Taylor began to undergo some personal reversals- mainly
escalating bouts of depression – dropping out of the Milton Academy
boarding school in Massachusetts. “Probably typical adolescent stuff,”
says James, “but people around me put me into a mental hospital for
about nine months. ” (Sister Kate and brother Livingston would also
spend short intervals at McLean Hospital, where Ray Charles had once
gone to detox.) Sprung by a pal named Dave Barry, Taylor fled with his
record collection – Joseph Spence, Vaughan Williams, Frederick Delius,
Miles Davis, Irma Thomas, the Stones, The Beatles, and Music Of The
Ituri Rain Forest and found a job at the Bort Carlton Handbags leather
bindery in South Boston. Hating it, James high-tailed it to Manhattan,
where Kortchmar had just dissolved a blues-rock combo called The King

Kootch offered to form a new band around Stringbean, titled The James
Taylor Group “after The Spencer Davis Group, but James backed off that
idea, so somebody suggested we call ourselves The Flying Machine” –
which soon included mutual Vineyard associates Zack Wiesner on bass and
Joel O’Brien on drums. “Zack and I lived in the Albert Hotel in
Greenwich Village on a floor that was burned out except for this one
room,” recalls Taylor. “Getting to the room was a little smoky, a
charred experience, but the room itself. . .wasn’t great either, haha.
Yet the rodent and cockroach population had at least been discouraged
by the fire. We rehearsed in the basement of the Albert, and shortly
thereafter we became the house band at the Night Owl Cafe on West
Third Street off MacDougal, doing three, four sets a night in between
stands by Turtles and Lothar And The Hand People. This were going OK
until we made the mistake of trying to cut a record in 1966…” This
debut single was James’s Night Owl backed by his Brighten Your Night
With My Dad. “The people involved wouldn’t spring for the money for
a whole album of James’s songs, which he had a considerable number of,
like Knocking Round The Zoo, Rainy Day Man, after getting out of
McLean, ” complains Kortchmar. Demoralised, Taylor slid into heroin
addiction. . .

We’ve spent most of a rainy April afternoon in the back dining room of
the fabled Minetta Tavern Restaurant, an ancient leftie/showbiz hangout
at the corner of Minetta Lane and MacDougal. This is where he and Kootch
often ate, and swapped set-lists before ambling one block over to their
nightly Night Owl regimen.

Taylor hasn’t been back to this historic watering hole since the mid’60s,
and its ghosts have prompted expansive reflection. “I had fallen in with
some people who could have done me some harm if I’d stuck with them,”
says Taylor as he pokes at his pasta, the smooth, angular planes of his
narrow face tautening. “There were warrants out for these two guys
staying at my place. I knew them by no other names than Smack and Bobby,
and they were robbing people for a living. I was addicted. I was
beginning to get desperate.

“I called up my dad in Chapel Hill. We weren’t terribly close,
especially in those days. But he had a sense I was in trouble. And he
said, ‘Stay put. What’s your address? I’ll be right there.’ To focus
on that cavalry charge of my father’s, now that he’s gone, is a great
thing for me,” Taylor considers. “If he had just sent me a plane ticket,
I definitely would have just sold it.” But because James finally realised,
30 years later, that his dad was not just retrieving his son but trying
to take him home to the safest place he knew, James decided to show
both Ike and his own boy he understood the meaning of that gesture.

“The idea of the lyric of Jump Up Behind Me on Hourglass was of someone
swinging a person up onto a horse behind him, and taking the person home,”
Taylor recounts “I had this very strong image of being on the side of
the road, collapsed, and my father finding me. And then I also made it
about finding my true love, and wanting to take her back across the
water, to the Orkneys or some mythical place that you leave when you’re
young but return to when you’re old. ”

Taylor decides to drink his coffee by a window looking out on the Cafe
Wha? where, he fondly recalls, Jimi Hendrix had performed in the era of
The Flying Machine. Taylor angles his elongated carriage into the cramped
booth nearest the street, and sips his decaf “For most of my life,” he
mulls, “my father basically was inaccessible to me. There was another
song like Jump Up that I recorded in 1980, called Only For Me on the
Dad Loves His Work album, and it was about finding my father in a bar:
‘Out of sight of the light in the window/His mind in his whiskey/And
his body in a folding chair/Far beyond repair ‘ . ” The Lyrics go on to
recount how his son walks into the tavern and enters his parent’s line
of “vision”, Ike makes “his decision” and he stands proudly to his feet
to greet him – although sitting back again proves “a long way down”.
James sizes up his dad’s dissolution, knowing he’s been there too, and
says he’s come to his aid. “Young man,” Ike answers, “you’re looking
pretty green/Like a stranger to this kind of place.” Ike insists his
son sit beside him, peer into his face, and hear a story he’d never
before dared to tell: “There was a father and a son/But that was long
ago/And when the time came to run/I just couldn’t say no/So I left them
behind.” The verses of Only For Me finish with: “We have seen it before/
In times of great sorrow/The human compassion will flow from a well that
has long run dry…/It happened to me…/Only for you…/From one who
was lost and found.”

“He finally came across, acting even slightly apologetic for his own
failings,” recalls James Taylor, eyes shining. “On that night, and then
with that song, after so much time, my dad and I made a connection. ”

Over the course of the next five years, during which he wound up a
decade of wedlock to singer Carly Simon (the mother of his two children,
Ben and Sally) and was married to actress Kathryn Walker (a tie which
formally ended in 1996), Taylor also weaned himself from his remaining
addictions to methadone and alcohol. “In 1985 I bottomed out and went
into recovery, and I was managing to feel I could stand to be in my own
skin again. I played at this Rock In Rio Festival in South America, and
seeing that 300,000 people in a cultured country knew my stuff, with
these great Brazilian players like Airto Moreira giving me validation,
really resurrected me. ”

Resuming touring with renewed vigour, Taylor quickly became one of the
foremost concert attractions in the United States, with a box-office
consistency rivalled only by The Grateful Dead and Jimmy Buffett. His
post-Brazil album, 1985’s That’s Why I’m Here, restored his status as
a platinum-selling artist, with all ensuing records following
commercial suit. His Greatest Hits collection of 1976 is currently a
fixture in the higher reaches of Billboard’s Top Pop Catalogue Albums
chart, with 11 million units purchased and no let-up in sight.

chuckles affectionately, “but the truth is that James is the archetypal
singer-songwriter. He’s the mould, as a solo artist backed by a
consistent touring band, writing confessional songs before almost
anybody – songs that remained personal even as they became universal.
Dylan achieved the universal aspect, but not the personal vulnerability.

“Working and touring with James for decades, I used to want him to rock
out more, until I realised that what he wanted to do was actually calm
people in a unique, quirky way. He’s a guitar virtuoso who subverted
folk forms with a lot of major 7ths and higher inversion chords, and
he mixed influences like Stephen Foster, Pete Seeger, Aaron Copland,
Lightnin’ Hopkins and The Beatles so they disappeared into the James
Taylor stew. His songs sound like blues, like Christmas carols, and
like a church choir too, yet it all essentially comes only from him. ”

“Fundamentally,” Ike Taylor told this writer in 1981, “James is a
retiring person who wants and is able to be in meaningful contact
with other people. At the one-on-one level his shyness interferes.
Paradoxically that shyness disappears on-stage. I see family allusions
in much of his work, and a core confidence in the rightness of exposing
his inner self Fire And Rain, for instance, was a great expression of
his sensitivity but also of his will. ”

“My son ministers through his music,” says Trudy Taylor. “He picks up
the themes of what’s good in the past, and he gives them a unified
clarity in the present. ”

Hourglass was built up informally but deliberately in sight of the sea,
in a bungalow near Taylor’s own house on Martha’s Vineyard. “Hourglass
felt like a good title,” he says. “It reminded me of the hourglass on a
ship during the 18th and 19th centuries. A CD disc is also a kind of
glass that you can start again and again, most of them lasting about an
hour. In the old days of British maritime history, the sandglass was
used to mark time, to measure how long a sailor has to stand watch while
at sea, and to judge how fast the ship was going.”

The songs highlight all his various strengths, from topical narratives
(Line ‘Em Up), to power ballads (Little More Time With You), to jazz
waltzes (Up From Your Life), witty romps (hidden track Hangnail), and
secular hymns, particularly Up Er Mei, about a 1993 hiking trip James
took with his children to Sichuan.

And then there’s Enough To Be On Your Way, which encompasses Taylor’s
reactions to the deaths in the 1990s of Ike Taylor; brother Alex (who
expired due to an alcohol-related heart attack on March 12, 1993,
James’s birthday); Ike’s second wife, Suzanne, who succumbed to cancer;
and, most recently, of the passing of James’s best friend,
keyboardist-arranger Don Grolnick, a lynphoma victim who had produced
Taylor’s three previous albums.

“A lot of the initial focus of Enough To Be came from Alex’s dying, and
the mention in the Lyric of smoke and a storm refers to an actual event
after his cremation, when the ashes that went up a smokestack in Florida s
eemed to turn into an amazing storm that followed us home from that
ceremony, tearing up the East Coast from Carolina to Massachusetts, ”
says James . “The idea is of somebody who can’t get home, who can’t
find home late in their lives. As you get older- and I’m pushing 50—you
grasp that the loneliness of the human condition stems from a wholeness
from which we seem separated. Consensus, just the sense of connection
with other people, feels so great, and it motivates an awful lot of what
we do . The more successful or thwarted you are as an isolated individual,
the more you need reconnection.

“The Hourglass record, my first all-new work in five years, was
postponed by the dying of Don. And then it was interrupted by the
loss of my father, his second wife, and then the family duties that
came with that, including looking after the three young children they
left parentless.” He shrugs haplessly. “These things brought me full
circle in my sense of everything I’ve inherited from my past.

“After a while you want to be a little bit fonder of your burdens,
because they’re what make life interesting, and they’re basically what
your work is in this life. I think I’m getting better at being a friend,
and a parent, and a sibling, and a child. l don’t know how good I am as
a companion but a woman I’ve been seeing for a while named Kim [Smedvig] has helped me there, and I’m starting to feel good about that too. ”

As the rainy day man finishes his coffee, the sun breaks through outside,
and he suggests we take a stroll through the area’s residential back
streets. “The other song on the new album that means a lot to me is
Another Day, ” he says as we hit the sidewalk, turning west past the
Cafe Wha? and retracing the path of the Minetta Brook as it meandered
to the Hudson and from thence out to sea. “It took me 13 years to finish
Another Day, which is about experiencing withdrawal and making it to
morning, when the sun comes out and you believe in the fact of yet
another day. I’m stronger than I was in ’66, no question, and stronger
than I was in ’96. I’m very curious to see where I’ll be in three years.
I think I’ll be in a pretty good position.

“But right now,” he smiles, “I feel like I can walk down Minetta Lane
as a different man.”