James Taylor Performs Live in 1970, Thanks to a Little Help from His Friends, The Beatles

James Taylor Sings James Taylor, a BBC broadcast from November 1970, appears above. Though the nearly 40-minute solo performance showcases a player who has developed and mastered his distinctive musical persona, it also showcases one who has only reached a mere 22 years of age. But don’t let his aw-shucks youthfulness fool you; by this point, Taylor had already endured a lifetime’s worth of formative troubles. He’d fallen into deep depression while still in high school, spent nine months in a psychiatric hospital, taken up and quit heroin, bottomed out and spent six months in recovery, underwent vocal cord surgery, taken up methedrine, gone into methadone treatment, had an album flop, and broken his hands and feet in a motorcycle wreck. Fire and rain indeed. But he’d also found favor with the Beatles, becoming the first American signed on their Apple label and recruiting Paul McCartney and George Harrison to play on his “Carolina in My Mind.” At the end of the sixties, the world at large didn’t know the name James Taylor, but his fellow musicians knew it soon would.

“I just heard his voice and his guitar,” said McCartney, “and I thought he was great.” Earlier in 1970, many listeners surely felt the same thing after dropping the needle onto Taylor’s breakthrough second album Sweet Baby James. By the time James Taylor Sings James Taylor went to air, he’d accrued enough of an international reputation to guarantee appreciation from even non-Beatles on the other side of the pond. Knowing his audience, Taylor opens with a rendition of Lennon and McCartney’s “With a Little Help from My Friends.” The Beatles connections don’t stop there: Songfacts reports that Taylor’s “Something in the Way She Moves,” the first single from his pre-Sweet Baby James Apple debut, may have inspired George Harrison to write “Something.” What’s more, Taylor had originally titled his song “I Feel Fine,” before realizing that the Beatles had recorded a song by that name. Though more troubled times lay ahead for the humble (if already well on his way to wealth and fame) young singer-songwriter, this production captures Taylor just before superstardom kicked in.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (20)
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  • Shelley says:

    I thought James Taylor anxiously (but happily) warming his fingers on the way down to the podium was one of the most human-scale moments of the Inauguration.

    And it sure helps enjoyment if your politics agree with the politics of an artist you admire.

  • Donna says:

    Ah, this is when I fell in love with JT. He is at his best at this time – humble, and so full of heart and soul which is usually the fruits of our tragedies.

  • Kath says:

    This man soothes my soul. Have loved his music since I can remember loving music.

  • Liz says:

    does anyone know if this dvd is available for sale? BBC does sell a lot of their specials but I can’t find this one. Have been a fan for over 35 years. This is a wonderful dvd. His voice was just beautiful.

  • Marc B. Greenwald says:

    It’s gear!

  • Jim says:

    Vintage James! Really appreciate you posting this!

  • nwbl says:

    I love James. But credit where it’s due: Tom Rush wrote “Something in the Way She Moves.” James recorded it & had a hit w/ it.

  • Judy says:

    would love to have a cd of this concert. If anybody finds one, please let me know where to get it. thanks.

  • Saw a PBS concert where James told of writing Sweet Baby James for his namesake, his brother’s baby.It was a fabulous concert where he had a local group (including his wife)sing backup on a couple of songs. Love love him.

  • Cora says:

    James Taylor, soulful voice! A memory in every song!

  • Micheal Allison says:

    I remember as a teenager Taylor first getting big in 1970 with Fire and Rain.
    He was part of the “singer-songwriter” movememnt that the establsihment press was presenting as an antitote to hippified rock music.
    Today he is about the only star that remains from that musical genre.

  • rng says:

    nwbl, better check your facts more closely. Tom Rush performed, but did not write this song.

  • Renay says:

    What an awesome treat! Thank you for posting this. It was amazing to see what has always been a part of me, when it was new! It’s fun to see the subtle similarities in his son Ben now too. Excellent talented family. Thank you for sharing your blessings with us all. :)

  • shysharon says:


  • Mike says:

    According to lyrics.com, James wrote “Something in the Way She Moves.”

  • John Whitford says:

    I hated having the last song cut off. I liked the JT sound in the 60’s. This is a great video of his early, satirical, sarcastic, prologue with his totally original sound. TYVM for this record of JT.

  • Joy says:

    Brlliant video but very frustrating that it ended part way through a song! Any chance of getting the entire video recording please?nnn

  • Paul Harty says:

    NWBL Credit where it is due. Tom sang it, James wrote it. Look at the “Circle Game” credits. Tom is a superb judge and interpreter of songs, recording Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Murray Mclachlan, James Taylor very early, often before they were recorded elsewhere even by themselves.

  • Paul Harty says:

    I have been listening to James and singing some of his songs for 40 years. Even at that young age in 1970, he had a seamless folk/ country /jazz /blues blend in his guitar style. His evocative voice, very human warmth, confidence, self-deprecating humor are all in evidence here. He arrived fully formed, like Venus from the sea foam. Hmm, that last bit might be over the top. ;)

    A friend hosted James at an upstate NY coffeehouse around this time, he tells the same story that was amazing from the first.

  • Lou Nordeen says:

    James Taylor wrote, Something in the Way She Moves

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