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James Taylor

The term "singer/songwriter" was almost invented for Taylor. He is well known for his sensitive and dark lyrics. There is not a great deal known about his heroin use. We do know that he struggled with addiction from around 1968 through the end of his marriage with Carly Simon in 1981. Simon divorced him, at least in part, because of his continued heroin use.

James Taylor 'Sweet Baby James' Album Cover. Taylor's hit song "Fire and Rain" is about the suicide of a woman he became close to while in rehab and about getting off heroin itself.

There is an amusing myth about the meaning of the song. According to the myth, the song tells the story of Taylor's girlfriend, Suzanne, being killed in an airplane crash on her way to meet him at a concert. The myth is very popular among Taylor fans, and this is why I find it particularly pathetic. The idea of the plane crash comes from the line, "Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground." One would think that fans would know the history of their idols. "The Flying Machine" was the name of a band Taylor had in New York--a band that broke up ("in pieces") in large part because of Taylor's drug use. There is an excellent discussion of this Urban Legend on the Snopes Web Site. Be warned, however, that the article makes an assumption about when Taylor met Suzanne by not taking into account the common practice of changing song lyrics drastically over time. Otherwise, the article is dead-on.

The second verse has some typical "I'm so helpless, I must turn to God" nonsense that is thrust upon all those unfortunates who have 12-step programs forced on them. The lyrics are still quite beautiful.

Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can't remember who to send it to

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

Won't you look down upon me, Jesus
You've got to help me make a stand
You've just got to see me through another day
My body's aching and my time is at hand
And I won't make it any other way

Oh, 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

Been walking my mind to an easy time my back turned towards the sun
Lord knows when the cold wind blows it'll turn your head around
There's hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come
Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground

Oh, 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, baby, one more time again, now

Thought I'd see you one more time again
There's just a few things coming my way this time around, now
Thought I'd see you, thought I'd see you fire and rain, now

Article (not song lyrics) by Dr. H © 2001,2003, 2011
Last Modified: 29 June 2011


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