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James Taylor: Long Ago And Far Away

James Taylor: Long Ago And Far Away
James Taylor: Long Ago And Far Away is a biography of JT by Billboard magazine editor-in-chief Timothy White. It is now available from

White has written extensively about JT in the past and researched this new book with the full cooperation of JT and his family. The book runs 430 pages and includes 68 rare black and white photos.

See White's 1997 article in MOJO magazine article about JT for a preview.

White visited JTO for a chat in October 2001. You can read the transcript.

Our Review

If James Taylor is to be believed, an autobiography is unlikely. You should look no further than his songs for his take on life, he says, and most fans are inclined to believe him. The songs don't tell us everything, though. It's natural to crave more information about the man behind the songs, the performances, and of course the real story behind "Fire And Rain."

It's difficult to imagine a more exhaustive or authoritative work about James Taylor than this, the culmination of Billboard Editor-In-Chief Timothy White's decades-long friendship and professional ties with James Taylor. James Taylor: Long Ago And Far Away is, from the start, mind-boggling in its chronological scope. For evidence read just a few pages in, where you'll join Taylor's 17th-century ancestors, tracking the Taylor bloodline through the ages and following father Ike Taylor to naval duty in Antarctica before gradually shifting the focus to JT nearly 100 pages into the narrative.

In the pages that follow, White's close familiarity with Taylor and admiration for his talents make for a sensitively presented, minutely-detailed story. Family ties are examined closely, with extensive direct observations by JT, mother Trudy and father Isaac, siblings, musical contemporaries, and ex-wives Carly Simon and Kathryn Walker. The story never lacks for direct quotes from the people who were there, and it's much richer for it. When JT describes his relationship with his father, White quotes each of them and also from family letters between the two. And when describing the impetus for "Fire And Rain," White gives us the enigmatic Suzanne's full name.

As the story progresses into JT's musical career, White's musical experience allows him to speak with authority -- at times truly encyclopedically. When a brief mention of a musical venue turns into a multi-page catalog of dozens of other artists who played there and influenced the music of the time, all but the most patient students of pop music may think about jumping ahead to when the story veers back to JT himself. Musicologists will be in heaven, though, and clearly the JT-specific parts of this 430-page book didn't get less attention because of the additional trivia.

All the major events -- and many of the minor ones -- are spelled out in great detail. From the production of every studio album to the construction of his homes on Martha's Vineyard to his relationships with his children, White was either present to document it or spoke to someone who was. It was clearly a Herculean task, as evidenced by the book's lengthy notes on sources. In fact, the post-narrative sections of the book (sources, detailed discographies for JT and all his siblings, plus an exhaustive index) span more than 50 pages. Those pages, along with the four sections of photos, make for some of the most interesting trivia found in the book.

Other Reviews

Boston Globe - December 4, 2001