Although no longer a frequent sight on the Vineyard, James Taylor is still a frequent visitor in the hearts (and ears) of many Islanders. Over the past five decades he has been a staple of popular music winning two Grammy awards and being inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 2000.
And on Wednesday, March 3, Mr. Taylor was presented with a National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
The ceremony honored 10 artists including the music producer Quincy Jones, the actress Meryl Streep, the poet Donald Hall, author Harper Lee and the legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins.
In presenting the medals President Obama praised the arts in general.
“One of the great joys of being President is getting a chance to pay tribute to the artists and authors, the poets and performers, who have touched our hearts and opened our minds — or, in the case of Quincy Jones and James Taylor, set the mood,” he continued.
Setting the mood has been a mainstay of Mr. Taylor’s career. From the early days of Sweet Baby James, his breakthrough album released in 1970, to the present, James Taylor’s signature voice and guitar playing have always evoked a sort of solemn hopefulness. His lyrics never shy away from the more difficult shadows of his life, and yet the beauty of his voice always conjures up not despair but something closer to acceptance.
As the man himself sings: “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend. But I always thought that I’d see you again.”
Congratulations James Taylor. Once a Vineyarder, always a Vineyarder.