World & Nation

James Taylor cancels Manila concert, protesting Philippine president’s war on drugs

James Taylor
A billboard in Manila promotes a concert by American singer James Taylor.
(Noel Celis / AFP/Getty Images)

American singer-songwriter James Taylor canceled an upcoming concert in Manila to protest Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, a campaign of extrajudicial slaughter that has claimed more than 6,000 lives. 

Taylor, a Grammy winner known for songs including “Fire and Rain” and “You’ve Got a Friend,” canceled the show — part of a February tour through Asia — in a statement posted to his personal website on Wednesday.

“I’ve been eagerly looking to play for my Philippine audience ever since we added Manila to our tour of the Pacific this coming February, so it saddens me to cancel our concert there,” he wrote. “I don’t think of my music as being particularly political, but sometimes one is called upon to make a political stand.”

Duterte, 71, campaigned for the presidency on promises to eradicate the country’s widespread illegal drug problem by killing suspected criminals without due process. Since his inauguration June 30, an estimated 6,100 people with suspected drug ties have been killed — about a third by police, the rest by vigilantes.


Earlier this week Duterte said he himself killed three suspected kidnappers in the late ’80s, while he was mayor of the southern city Davao. 

Duterte is known for long, off-the-cuff speeches; his proclivity for lewd insults earned him early comparisons to President-elect Donald Trump. He has hurled epithets at the U.S., E.U. and U.N. for criticizing his anti-drug campaign.

Taylor, a self-proclaimed “unabashed liberal,” has compared Trump to Mussolini, and helped campaign for Hillary Clinton in his home state, North Carolina. He personally struggled with heroin addiction as a teenager in the late ’60s. 

“The scourge of addiction is a worldwide problem and does serious harm, not only to the addict but to our society,” his statement continued. “For a sovereign nation to prosecute and punish, under the law, those responsible for the illegal trade in drugs, is, of course, understandable, even commendable; but recent reports from the Philippines of summary executions of suspected offenders without trial or judicial process are deeply concerning and unacceptable to anyone who loves the rule of law.”


He then promised to refund tickets, and apologized “for any inconvenience or disappointment this may cause my Filipino friends.”