James Taylor: “All music is reiteration... We just pick stuff up and use it again. I mean, there are just 12 notes”

James Taylor
(Image credit: Future)

Mention James Taylor and most people will instinctively think of his songwriting and singing. His compositions, including Fire and Rain, Carolina in My Mind, Sweet Baby James and Your Smiling Face, and interpretations (You’ve Got a Friend, How Sweet It Is) are imbued deep into the American culture, some of the most-played and best-loved songs of the past 50 years. 

But underpinning all of them is Taylor’s fingerpicked guitar playing, which is deceptively complex and completely unique – anything but basic strumming.

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Alan Paul

Alan Paul is the author of three books, Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan, One Way Way Out: The Inside Story of the Allman Brothers Band – which were both New  York Times bestsellers – and Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues and Becoming a Star in Beijing, a memoir about raising a family in Beijing and forming a Chinese blues band that toured the nation. He’s been associated with Guitar World for 30 years, serving as Managing Editor from 1991-96. He plays in two bands: Big in China and Friends of the Brothers, with Guitar World’s Andy Aledort.