James Taylor Wrote One of His Biggest Hits While in Rehab


James Taylor was only 22 years old when he achieved breakout success as a singer-songwriter, but he’d already experienced the sort of pain, frustration and sublime thrills of someone twice his age. Fittingly, the song that launched him to stardom, the 1970 single “Fire and Rain,” summoned and encapsulated the tragedies, setbacks and struggles that had marked his life to that point.

Along with his finger-picking guitar work and sweet, soothing voice, Taylor is known for his immensely personal lyrics, which often juxtaposed the music to which they were set with tales of sadness, heartbreak and depression. “Fire and Rain” was the epitome of Taylor’s from-the-heart lyrical style, and to understand what he’s singing about, it’s imperative to know a bit about his early life and career.

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Taylor struggled with his mental health as a teenager

Though a bright student, Taylor was plagued by depression, which was exacerbated by family turmoil and instability. By 15 years old, he’d already begun performing music in coffee shops and other small venues in his native Massachusetts and adopted home of North Carolina, showing flashes of his genius, but he was having trouble keeping his head above water at school.

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