Friday, September 11, 1970

James Taylor “Fire and Rain” hit the chart

Fire and Rain

James Taylor

Writer(s): James Taylor (see lyrics here)

Released: February 1970 (album cut on Sweet Baby James)

First Charted: September 11, 1970

Peak: 3 US, 4 CB, 3 GR, 3 HR, 7 AC, 1 CL, 42 UK, 2 CN, 6 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.2 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 4.0 radio, 42.17 video, 355.87 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Singer/songwriter James Taylor was born in 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts. His 1968 self-titled debut didn’t make much impact, peaking at #62. He had been given a contract with Apple Records by Paul McCartney, but he couldn’t promote the album because he was seeking treatment for heroin addiction. SF He also “disliked the lavish production…and wanted something more acoustic-based.” HL He was dropped by the label and picked up by Warner Bros. SF

The move paid off. His second album, 1970’s Sweet Baby James, was a triple-platinum seller which reached #3 on the Billboard album chart. Its success was largely attributed to the single “Fire and Rain,” the song that music historian Steve Sullivan called “a stunning piece of song-poetry” SS that “defined the apex of the American singer/songwriter movement.” SS

Taylor was “surprised that such a deeply personal song would appeal to listeners.” SF He acknowledged, “The stuff I write does come from an autobiographical place.” HL The first verse was his reaction to learning of the suicide of his friend Suzanne. The second verse addresses his depression over the failure of his band Flying Machine, his efforts to kick heroin, and his time spent in a mental institution. SS The third verse is about “coming to grips with fame and fortune.” WK

Taylor started writing the song in 1968 while still in London. He continued working on it while in a hospital in Manhattan and later in drug rehab at the Austin Riggs Center in Massachusetts. SF The song featured Carole King on piano. She wrote her iconic song “You’ve Got a Friend” (which Taylor took to #1) as a reaction to the line “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend” in “Fire and Rain.” WK


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First posted 4/11/2023; last updated 4/28/2024.

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