Tuesday, October 21, 2008

James Taylor Making Music in Carolina

James Taylor -- the real one, not a recording -- is singing outside my office window as I write this.

Taylor is a local boy--we claim him--who is giving concerts to celebrate Obama. I don't need to tell you who Taylor is. Everybody knows. Years ago in India, I stopped at a one-table restaurant next to the Ganges. Three rangy twenty-something guys were sitting in three of the four chairs at that table. I sat down at the fourth.

Turned out that they were from Argentina and were working in Italy and had come to India on vacation. I said I was from the U.S.

"Where?" one asked

"Outside Chapel Hill."

One of them responded by singing a line of "Going to Carolina in my Mind." I smile now to think of it, how that pulled home and India, and Italy and Argentina together for me in an instant.

This morning, when I first heard Taylor's silky voice through the window glass, it was well before the concert hour. My office partner Carrie Knowles and I walked the two-and-a-fraction blocks down to the square. Taylor and his crew were doing their soundcheck an hour or so before the performance.

It turned into an intimate performance, with him singing "Suzanne," etc. and occasionally stopping to get an adjustment in "tracking." People had gathered, but it was still possible to get close, for him to chat with audience members only yards away.

I remember hearing him live back when he was a young long-hair, as was I at the time. That has been more than thirty-five years. His voice, singing the same songs, brings then and now together.

(Oh, he just started into "You've Got a Friend," a great campaign song)

Just now in the park, watching his hands close-up riffing on that old-style guitar-- It was like watching a Zen master performing a ritual done countless times. The automatic straight-from-nature half-aware look of his performance made me think of the truism: that it takes 10,000 hours of practice before we become good at our art.

He's good. And I'm now back at my desk typing; couldn't spare time to go to the whole concert, but it's floating through my window, inspiring both perseverance and ease.

That ease with the music that's grooved into his brain: that can free an artist to be bold.

Carrie went back for the formal concert, took this picture; she could no longer get close enough to see who was singing. But there was no question whose inimitably distinct voice it was.

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Rhea said...

How cool that you could hear him singing outside. I never knew of his N.C. connections until this week. I had always thought of him as a New Englander. (I live in Boston.)

Fashionista said...

Love the blog! you have a new reader!!

Peggy Payne said...

Welcome Fashionista (cool name!) and Rhea.

Rhea, I just learned today that Taylor was born in Boston. I've always thought of him as from here. Well, I guess there's enough of him to go around.

And I'm glad to know about your boomer blog. It's a nice mix of meaty and light.

Debra W said...

Oh Peggy, how wonderful! I got to see him once when I was in college about twenty-five years ago, and he was wonderful. His music still speaks to my soul.


mamie said...

Great post. He is CAROLINA in every sense of the word.

Peggy Payne said...

I was actually thinking I'd first heard him at a blanket concert at UNC, Mamie, at a Joe College weekend. But I checked the dates of when he was where, and it appears that wasn't possible. I do know for sure I heard him at the NC State fairgrounds. But I also cherish that imagined concert I attended in the late 60s.