Carolina In My Mind

“This is a song I wrote in Spain, partially in Spain and partially here [in London – Ed]. I was homesick at the time, I didn’t really have a home but that doesn’t keep you from being homesick sometimes.”James Taylor (178)
“I was homesick when I wrote it, and the ‘holy host of others standing ’round me’ refers to the Beatles [who were recording the White Album nearby at the time – Ed]. The lyric dealt with being somewhere else, which has always made me feel real good, and it encouraged me that I could write a song that strong.”James Taylor (67)


“The song ‘B.S.U.R.’ on Flag was inspired by the cartoons of William Steig, who has a book out called CDB! about how to take letters and numbers and turn them into sentences, like ‘IMAUMBN’–’I am a human being’–or ‘URNNML’–’You are an animal.’ Well, my sister and I used to play that game. So I wrote ‘B.S.U.R.’ [which contains the verse: “She’s been holding on too long/Hoping I’m gonna change/Giving it up just a little bit more/Each time I come home/Looking and acting strange/Putting her down for putting up with me”] and Carly [Simon, wife – Ed] was fine about the song, sang on it, but other people were appalled that I could put our relationship on the line that way. She’s written a song called ‘Fair Weather Father’ that seems to paint me pretty ugly, but I sang backup on it, and I don’t take it seriously.”James Taylor (67)
“The chorus came first, since it’s all in initials, and I wanted to write the whole tune that way, just a sort of – exercise. You find people who write lyrics spend a lot of time making spoonerisms. It’s one of those relationship songs. The lyric didn’t seem to be about me and Carly at all, but she finds some correlations. I suppose it may be – I mean,after all, l wrote it. It’s probably not about Haldeman and Erlichman. I think that sometimes my behavior threatens her, ’cause she feels I might really harm myself. And it’s hard to commit yourself, emotionally to someone who could do damage to you through your commitment to them. It’s this business of whether or not you can afford to really put your life in the hands of someone who may not be in enough control of themselves to keep themselves alive. And I think there have been times when Carly worried about that with me. It’s not that she was trying to control me; she was just trying to decide whether or not she was gonna be able to stand to love me if she might have to lose me. And there were years and there have been instances when that was possible.”James Taylor (568)

Walking Man

“It was about the coming of winter and the way I feel about it. I panic a little bit when I feel it coming on. It’s always reminded me of having to go back to school, and maybe it’s a primal thing of realizing that winter means you’re going to have to put up with a tough time–the dark, difficult, cold times you have to be prepared for.”James Taylor (67)
“I wrote a lot of songs about my dad. It’s probably typical, but I have a sense that he was emotionally sort of frozen. “Walking Man” is informed by my longing for him. He disappeared for a few years when I was seven, eight and nine. He was drafted into the Navy, and then he volunteered to go to the South Pole. We missed him a lot. My mother was a daughter of a Yankee fisherman. She had five kids born within six years in the countryside of North Carolina, and here she was waiting for her husband to come home. That always stayed with me, somehow.”James Taylor (573)

Hour That The Morning Comes

“‘Hour That the Morning Comes’ is about people at a party. The first one is Carly [Simon – Ed], who doesn’t get drunk and has a good time without hurting herself. The second guy, with his head ‘kacked’– that’s a junkie term–in his lap, is just someone who’s miserable. The next person, the fool with the lamp shade on, is somebody else I know, and the ‘secret-agent man’ is a dealer, or someone with an angle he has to play out at the party.”James Taylor (67)

Sleep Come Free Me

“Bob Rafelson, the director, came to the Vineyard one time and asked me if I wanted to act in Brubaker, which he started making before something took him off the project. He said he was also looking for a song for the movie, and I came right out with this line ’10 lonely years without a woman,’ which was part of the original lyric. Then, to make it rhyme, I made it ’10 lonely years of my life taken.’ A couple of weeks before that, I had gone on a bender, and I got so drunk that I blacked out a whole rampage of awful behavior. I don’t know where I got the energy for it. I can remember that I played ‘She Caught the Katy,’ which I love, at a party for something like eight hours straight, and when someone finally threatened, or offered, to beat me on the head lest I keep playing the song, I actually bit a big hole in the guitar. And this guitar belonged to a good friend of mine, so it was a bad thing to have done. I had also recently watched a TV program on angel dust, where some poor bastard killed a man and couldn’t remember afterward. So I began to think of how some person could end up with no memory of what he had to pay for with his time in prison. When I came to, I heard for days about my behavior–some people just gave me dirty looks–so I wrote that into the song: Now the state of Alabama says I killed a man/The jury reached the same conclusion/I remember I was there/With a tire iron in my hand/The rest is all confusion.”James Taylor (67)

Fire And Rain

““Fire and Rain” has three verses. The first verse is about my reactions to the death of a friend. The second verse is about my arrival in this country with a monkey on my back, and there Jesus is an expression of my desperation in trying to get through the time when my body was aching and the time was at hand when I had to do it. Jesus was just something that you say when you’re in pain. I wasn’t actually looking to the savior. Some people look at it as a confirmation of belief in Christ as the one true path and the one sole way, which I don’t believe in, although he can certainly be a useful vehicle. And the third verse of that song refers to my recuperation in Austin Riggs [a Massachusetts hospital- Ed] which lasted about five months.”James Taylor (567)
“Again it wasn’t any kind of premeditated attempt at knocking down an audience. I was just writing down a song for myself. The song came in three different portions. The first verse came in a basement apartment in London. The second verse in a hospital room in Manhattan where I was recovering from what made me leave England – some hard times and stuff, and the third verse was written in Austin Riggs hospital in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. So it’s a three month period of time in 1968. It’s like three samplings of what I went through then.”James Taylor (568)

Mudslide Slim

“That song was actually as much as anything else to Peter Asher, who bore the brunt of my discomfort about the deadline aspect of Mudslide Slim. I wrote that song in the studio. The bridge, which was, “Do you believe I’ll go back home/Hey, mister. can’t you see that I’m dry as a bone?” is about having to write a song. It’s an album cut about having to make an album cut. It’s kind of a rip-off, except that it’s really a nice tune. After a while, a novelist who does nothing but write novels is going to end up writing a novel about writing a novel. The first chapter will say, “I wrote these words upon my typewriter,” or pretty soon “my vision is going to be turned right … I’m going to be looking at my feet.””James Taylor (567)


““Fanfare” is about Carly [Simon – Ed], or about Carly and myself.”James Taylor (567)

Nobody But You

“The line “Nobody But You,” is about Carly [Simon – Ed]. The song itself isn’t about anything. That song is nonsense.”James Taylor (567)

Secret o’ Life

“I think “Secret o’ Life” is a spiritual song. The reason I call it “Secret o’ Life,” sounding like an o, is because it sounded like such a preposterous title. So presumptuous. So I wanted to make it sound like a Lifesaver flavor, you know. I think that song is about the decaying universe, about entropy, about being in the Now.”James Taylor (568)

Enough To Be On Your Way

“[Supposedly about the death of his brother Alex although the song refers to Alice – Ed]. No, it was Alice all along. It actually started before Alex died. When I started the song, I just had the line “The last time I saw Alice, she was leaving Santa Fe.” About nine months or so after Alex died, I went to Paris and was walking around the streets there, and the song just came down around the circumstances of Alex’s dying. I was there by myself for a long time, walking around by myself in the streets. It was a dark time, a rainy time. And the song came out at me from alleyways and in cafes.”James Taylor (569)
“My brother Alex was also an addict, and in 1993, he died of it. There was a sense of relief when he died, for him and for his family, that one felt. It wasn’t until a year or so had passed that I got back in touch with the totality of his life rather than just the shambles of its end, the pain of it. That’s when I wrote this song.”James Taylor (573)

Sunny Skies

“‘Sunny Skies’ was an exception which I wrote in London. It was actually the stage name for a Pakistani rhythm and blues singer but the character I modeled it on was a friend of mine called Kingman Rooster. I put the line ‘You’ll be pleased to find he ain’t got no friends’ because the song was too rosy up to that point – it was kind of a rude turnaround!”James Taylor (865)