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Timothy White Chat at James Taylor Online
3 October 2001

Timothy - logged on.
Joel - Welcome to our chat with Timothy White, everyone.
Joel - And welcome to you, Mr. White. Thanks so much for coming to chat with us.
Joel - For those who may not know, Timothy White is the Editor In Chief of Billboard magazine.
Timothy - My pleasure
Joel - He's also written a new biography about James Taylor.
Joel - You can click the cover image above to read more about it in a separate window.
Joel - I realize we've caught you at a busy time, so we appreciate your taking the time to come see us.
Joel - Let's get started.
Joel - I asked folks to submit some questions they'd like to ask you, so I'll be interspersing some of them.
Joel - Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself, your career, and your history with JT?
Joel - As a side note for our audience, White is also the author of some other popular musical histories and biographies including Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley.
Timothy - Let's see, I've been a professional journalist since college, working at the Associated Press while I was still at Fordham University's bygone experimental college Bensalem, and I've known James since I was Managing Editor of Crawdaddy in the mid-'70s. (I
Joel - Were you commissioned to write the JT biography, or was it your own choice?
Timothy - {I met Liv briefly in 1970) Then I was an editor at Rolling Stone, a contributing editor to Musician magazine, wrote books, did a radio show for 10 years, and joined Billboard as Editor In Chief in Dec. 1990.
Timothy - I've never been commissioned to write any books, but I'd written about James for a long time and felt he was underappreciated. I talked with him in the kitchen of my family's summer rental on Martha's Vineyard in August 1997 and asked if he'd mind if I w
Timothy - I'd write pone of my social biographies of HIM. He blinked, smiled, and said, "Sure."
Joel - Why do you think JT agreed to cooperate with your project? He does relatively few interviews, and if previous articles on him are to be believed, he wasn't interested in either writing an auto-biography or contributing to the writing of a biography.
Timothy - Since all my books are history-based, they involve a lot of research and need fpor family records, etc. so I also met with other members of the Taylor family. Everyone was happy to help, especially Trudy Taylor, and no one requested anything. To answer th
Joel - To our audience: Click the book image above to read our own review of the book.
Timothy - the latest question, the family was familiar with my writing as well as the nature of my books, and I guess that's why they cooperated.
Joel - From a fan: I assume you are a big James Taylor fan. . . if so, why? Also, if you feel you know JT pretty well, is he the guy most of us think he is via his music? Was he not disappointing in that respect? And finally, what about JT (if anything) surprises you, that you think would surprise his fans as well?
Timothy - One of the points of all my books is direct access to the subject, be it Bob Marley, the Beach Boys or James. I don't like pop psycho-analysis, so being able to ask everybody about anything over the course of at least 5 years is important to the vbais of
Timothy - the books, and direct observation over the course of years is crucial too.
Joel - How would you compare the experience of writing JT's biography to those you've written about other artists?
Timothy - I'm a fan of James but my interest goes deeper, beause I believe history and heritage are shaping influences on people.
Joel - And has JT given you his impression of the book in its final form?
Timothy - There are three main components to one's life: heritage, identity, and destiny.
Timothy - Heritage is what you are given via bloodlines, identity is your own struggle to lead an origin life with your unique gifts.
Timothy - And destiny is the unknowable future you must confront, meanwhile discovering your purpose in life.
Joel - Those issues are definitely covered in great depth in your book -- more so than in anything written about JT beforehand.
Timothy - Re final form of book. James was along for the process for years, but never saw or asked to see pages. At this point he knows his own story, but the fact that he told the story of his own family's history in his songs, often without realizing it, is part
Timothy - of the fabric of the text. Many of James' songs are about things that happened hundreds of years ago that he couldn't have known -- I know because I discussed the history I found with him and he got a big kick out of it.
Joel - Here's a fan question probably best directed to JT himself, but maybe you'd like to comment on it: Why does it take soooooooooooooooo long between albums in the last 15 or 20 years? Is his muse not visiting as much or is he more selective about what he records? Does he suffer writer's block?
Joel - And along the same lines: Do you think he'll continue to tour, now that he's started another family?
Timothy - The Taylor family crest that is positioned at the start of each chapter has not been seen by anyone in James' lineage for approximately 300 years.James was thrilled to see it and taped it to his wardrobe case in his dressing room.
Timothy - James' music takes the time it takes because it's the sounding board of his spirit. Touring and playing is his job, songwriting is a deeper task—to tell the truth on yourself and the way you look at life.
Timothy - I think James will tour as long as he's able. As he said in Billboard this week to West Coast Editor Melinda Newman, he "lusts" for his audience—he loves the contact.
Joel - You include a brief preview of the upcoming album in your notes at the end of the book. Would you say his fans should be looking forward to it?
Timothy - I don't think James suffers writer's block so much as feels every song as it develops privately, emotionally; they find final form, it eems, when they're mature. I've heard his stuff in various stages over the years., and he's played me stuff oer long-dis
Timothy - tance phone lines that he's yet to finish.
Joel - A rather mundane question, but foremost on the minds of folks anxious to read your book: Do you have any information about its US availability? It's not yet in most stores here in the States even though UK stores had it in stock a month ago.
Timothy - I will tell you that Russ Titewlman played me a lot of the next album in its presence form and both I and members of my staff were speechless at how great some of it was. After hearing "Seteptember Grass" and "Fourth of July" in studio form, we couldnt sp
Timothy - Sorry that's producer Russ Titelman.
Timothy - Sorry, that's "September Grass"
Timothy - I really want o emphasize the excellence of what I heard. It was exquisite.
Timothy - Shipments of books to the US were at the docks when the terrorism in the States occurred. That has delayed matters.
Joel - To our audience: JT's upcoming album is likely to be released in the spring or summer of 2002.
Joel - We understand. Folks are just very anxious to read it, I'm sure.
Joel - I know you're pressed for time due to a deadline, so we'll bring it to a close here.
Timothy - The books started going into stores this week. I should also know the first person I ever discussed the book itself with was Chris Charlesworth, my British editor at Omnibus Press in London. He believed in the book way before HOURGLASS, etc. I wanted the
Timothy - book to be published out of Britian with British spellings and design and family crests because the historical span of the story is British in its roots and textures.
Timothy - Everybody talks about Scottish heritage in story and song finding its way to America and flowering. The Taylor's saga is a case in point.
Timothy - James' album will be out sometime in the spring or summer of next year.
Joel - The book is definitely a history lesson in many ways. The research must have been quite an effort.
Joel - Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. We could go on much longer.
Joel - In the meantime, to our audience, be sure to read more about the book by clicking the links at the top of the chat room.
Joel - I want to thank you on behalf of everyone here, Mr. White. We really appreciate it -- and congratulations on an excellent book.
Timothy - I felt it was important to go to North Carolina, to Scotland, to all the places that figure in the book. I was even on Montserrat at the studio where James recorded and the bars he drank at—but that was back in the day. I just think books should be based
Timothy - But if I hadn't been researching James' background and writing about him for decades, I could never has considered doing the book.
Timothy - Now, I'm just finishing up work on the second printing, which has some added material. I revise and expand every single print of all my books. In the end, hopefully, the point is to make the reader the expert, so I can go on to the next project.
Timothy - I can go on for anoter 10 minutes, then I have to meet some Billboard deadlines.
Joel - That's amazing -- already in revisions before the first is even on the streets.
Joel - Okay. Great.
Timothy - First editions of books are fun but I like a bpook best after about ten years of additional work.
Joel - Do you have any plans to excerpt the book in any publications -- Billboard or elsewhere?
Timothy - The Bob Marley book is 250 pages longer than when it first came out in 1983.
Timothy - I got a request from my publisher today, actually. I just said I'd want to okay it first. I like excerpts to be representative of the book itself.
Joel - We'll watch for that. Many of the folks here were impressed by the articles you'd done for MOJO and Billboard in advance of the book -- in hindsight they seem to be previews of the book.
Joel - Would you say that's the case? Was the research continuous?
Timothy - The first magazine to support the book was MOJO. Editor Mat Snow published some material draw from it in 1997, which was fun and very nice of him. James got a big kick out of it, as did his manager Gary Borman. There haven't been a lot of lengthy magazine
Timothy - articles on James in recent years and MOJO graciously gave it a lot of space.
Timothy - The research was and remains continuous. I got more material and documents from the family a few weeks ago.
Joel - It was also one of the few articles to include some of the Taylor family photos that your book is full of.
Timothy - Kate Taylor came to my talk on the book on Martha's Vineyard recently and we discussed material that's going into the book for the 2nd and 3rd printings.
Joel - Did she indicate that her long-promised new solo CD will be completed soon?
Timothy - Trudy Taylor and, years ago, at Rolling Stone, Ike provided me with most of those photos. I collected some and took a few myself in North Carolina and Scotland. The old ads came from scanning newspapers from the 1790s. It takes a lot of time to locate suc
Timothy - h material. I spent YEARS in libraries looking for family artifacts from the Beach Boys family history—old adds, immagration papers.
Timothy - Sorry, immigration papers
Timothy - I talked with Kate yesterday, and she's finishing the alvbum now. "I Will Fly" a song penned by her late husband, Charles, is a transprting folk-gospel song—an instant American classic. James also sings & plays on it. It's very simple, elegant.
Joel - Some good news for folks still waiting on the book: We'll be giving away some copies of the book over the next week or two. Watch the front page for updates.
Timothy - Sorry, a transporting folk-gospel song. Very touching in its simplicity.
Timothy - Anyhow, I'm obviously enthusing about two Taylor projects, James' and Kate's new album—but it's from the heart.
Timothy - Both the record are very special evn in heir unfinished form—and worth the wait. Promise.
Timothy - I should sign off now; I'm at my desk and we're going to press and people are knocking on my door. But I thank you for your interest, and I'll continue to do my humble best in writing about James and family.
Timothy - I feel the Taylor's are an important part of British-American cultural history, and their contributions will endure.
Joel - Okay. Thanks so much for talking with us.
Joel - Please come back whenever you're able.
Timothy - I'd be happy to. And soon. Next time, I'll have the hang of this better.
Joel - You did fine. Thanks again.
Joel - Mr. White can't stay for an open chat, everyone, but in a few minutes I'll be opening it up so that everyone can log in normally.
Joel - Thanks for your patience, everyone -- with the slow server, especially.
Joel - You can log in now, folks.