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.

Relat­ed con­tent

James Tay­lor Gives Free Acoustic Gui­tar Lessons Online

‘The Nee­dle and the Dam­age Done’: Neil Young Plays Two Songs on The John­ny Cash Show, 1971

Joni Mitchell: Singer, Song­writer, Artist, Smok­ing Grand­ma

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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