The venerable children’s book publisher Penguin Publishing has just released Taylor’s pop up book which illustrates his breakthrough song “Sweet Baby James”. Anyone who has followed Taylor’s music knows that the song was written for Taylor’s nephew. Baby James was born to Alex, James’ brother, and indeed, was named after the songwriter. What’s just as captivating, is the thoughts Taylor had about his compositional process.
When his nephew was born, Taylor decided to take to the road in his Cortina so that he could see the newborn baby who shared his name. Taylor believes that the song “approaches a work of art” and “is his best song”. Along his route, he composed the lullaby cowboy song for “the varmint”.
He thought to himself what kind of song would be best. He wanted it to be something that Gene Autrey or Roy Rogers would sing. Taylor described all the details of the best of cowboy life in his lullaby. He also describes the route he drove- in particular, the now famous Stockbridge to Boston stretch along the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Taylor described his “finding his way into the world” when he spoke at the Williams College Commencement in June 2009. Williams is a well-respected institution in The Berkshires of Massachusetts, and Taylor received an Honorary Degree there. He described his music as his way of entering the world. Though loved by millions for his troubadour songs, he arrived at maturity and success by overcoming emotional and mental adversities.
Taylor spent a time at McLean Psychiatric Hospital in Arlington School for troubled youths, and he recovered from heroin addiction at the Austen Riggs Sanatorium in Stockbridge. Taylor was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and though he grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, he eventually returned to The Berkshires and lived in Lenox, and finally Washington, Massachusetts. His performances in The Berkshires at the Tanglewood Music Festival, about 15 minutes-drive from Stockbridge, have brought him further fame.
Undeniably, his introspective lyrics, which perfectly tell stories with descriptive, accurate and emotive language, speak to many. He captures the human condition within fluid melodies. The poignant and tender are some of his most cherished. That may be why his new book, which was just released on March 12, 2018, is already out of stock. Priced at $25.00 USD on his official website, it’s already being sold elsewhere for $30.00.
The new book is filled with engaging tableaus illustrating verses and chorus of his song. They are designed for young and old to enjoy. The hardbound book is virtually ageless, though certainly destined to be popular with those who grew up with stories of the American West, those who love to drive across the distances of the United States, and those who care about human relationships. Taylor said that the song’s ending is “pretty spiritual”-but in a uniquely, all-encompassing and thoughtful Taylor kind of way. The little book of just ten pages is a visual rendering of Taylor’s cherished lullaby, and like his song, most likely will become a Taylor classic.