By the time James Taylor turned 21, he had signed to the Beatles’ fledgling record label, become a hard drug user and written some of the most iconic songs of the 20th century.
So when he partnered with Audible for an audio-only memoir, he decided that he’d have plenty of stories to share even if he only stuck to the first quarter of his life. The result: “Break Shot: My First 21 Years” — out Jan. 31 — details Taylor’s upbringing and how it paved the way for his musical career.
The journey takes him from a childhood spent in the idyllic green pastures of North Carolina to Massachusetts, where he reluctantly attended boarding school. He skipped out on college and decamped to London — where he hooked up with the Beatles — and finally moved to Los Angeles, where he became a fixture in the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter scene.
But the story stops just as the ’70s were commencing —meaning his relationship with Carly Simon, whom he wed in 1972, is not a part of it.
The Grammy winner, 71, is candid about other things in “Break Shot,” though — particularly his mental health. He recalls how he was plagued by depression as a high school student, ultimately leading him to check into McLean Hospital for nine months.
In this exclusive clip from Taylor’s Audible Original, the musician shares the upside of living in the locked ward of a psychiatric hospital: He was deferred by the Army and didn’t have to fight in the Vietnam War.
“They put on white coats and walked me into the draft board in Town Hall at Central Square in Cambridge,” Taylor says in the clip. “They sat me down on a chair between them and announced to the town clerk, ‘James here is a mental patient. He’s a good kid but he’s [screwed] up. He’s here to register for the draft.’”
“Break Shot,” which was recorded at Taylor’s home studio in the Berkshires, melds these stories with his own music. He also will release a new album of standard recordings on Fantasy Records this year.