In February of 1970, I was a high school student, a drummer and a passionate Led Zeppelin fan. (Led Zeppelin II had come out in October 1969!!)
Come the Fall, I was in my senior year, teaching myself how to play the acoustic guitar and listening intently to James Taylor.
“Fire And Rain” – the first single from Sweet Baby James, Taylor’s second album – was all over the radio, inching towards its October 31st peak of #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Sweet Baby James LP made it onto my Magnavox stereo around that time and soon became #1 on my listening chart.
The gorgeously intricate finger-style guitar playing that percolated across every track of Taylor’s album was hugely influential to me at a crucial time in my development as a guitarist.
“Sunny Skies” – Side 1, Track 3 – was the first song from Sweet Baby James that I somehow successfully learned how to play and sing. It still brings great joy.
Give a listen.
Bass guitarist John London, drummer Russ Kunkel and vocalist Carole King accompany James Taylor’s vocals and acoustic guitar on that recording.
Sweet Baby James also re-introduced me to the music of Stephen Foster, thanks to Taylor’s wonderful cover of “Oh Susannah” that closes out Side 1.
Check out the fabulous double-tracked fingerpicked acoustic guitar intro & coda!
James Taylor recorded Sweet Baby James at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, California over the course of ten days in December 1969. Peter Asher was the producer.
The record received a nomination for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards in 1971. (Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel was the winner.)
William Ruhlmann wrote in the All Music Guide to Rock: “Sweet Baby James… launched not only Taylor’s career as a Pop superstar but also the entire singer/songwriter movement of the early 70’s.”
Sweet Baby James was released by Warner Brothers Records 50 years ago today, on February 1, 1970.
“Good music doesn’t get old.”