James Taylor’s must-have playlist

Since the 1960s, James Taylor has been one of the most enduring voices in American folk music. From her self-titled debut to her recent releases, Taylor’s catalog is packed with jaw-dropping songs that run the emotional gamut, from sweet to emotionally devastating.

Scroll through the gallery to discover 20 essential songs that should be on any James Taylor playlist, from classics like “Sweet Baby James” to his iconic cover of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.”

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This autobiographical tune appears on Taylor’s second album “Sweet Baby James,” and it’s definitely a tearjerker. The lyrics were inspired by Taylor’s experiences with drug addiction and mental illness following the death of a longtime friend, and her emotive vocals manage to fully express the full range of emotions this song explores.

2 out of 20

“Sweet Baby James”

"Sweet baby James"

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The title track of Taylor’s 1970 album, “Sweet Baby James”, was written for Taylor’s nephew, who bears his name. With its lullaby-like melody and sweet lyrics, it has become a fan favorite over the years, although it was not initially a major commercial success.

3 out of 20

“Carolina on My Mind”

"Caroline on my mind"

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James Taylor was homesick in 1968 while recording in England at the Beatles’ Apple Studios, and “Carolina In My Mind” is the result of that beautiful yearning to return home.


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This upbeat, upbeat tune about a night in Mexico earned Taylor a top ten on the Adult Contemporary charts in 1975. Appearing on her album “Gorilla,” the upbeat song is decidedly more upbeat than many of Taylor’s best-known tunes.

5 out of 20

“How Sweet”

"How sweet"

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First recorded by Marvin Gaye, James Taylor recorded his own version of “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” in 1975. It was a crossover hit, earning a spot on the Billboard 100 All Genres, and is a staple on Taylor’s live show.

6 out of 20

“You have a friend”

"You have a friend"

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Originally written in 1971 by Carole King, James Taylor’s version of “You’ve Got A Friend” features Joni Mitchell on backup vocals. It was an instant hit, marking Taylor yet another No. 1 on the Billboard 100, and was said to have been written by King after hearing a lyric in Taylor’s signature song “Fire and Rain.”

"Countryside road"

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As with many James Taylor tracks, the simple melody of “Country Road” belies the deeply moving lyrics it contains. The song was inspired by a real country road near an inpatient mental health center that Taylor stayed in in 1965.

8 out of 20

“Something in the Way She Moves”

"Something in the way she moves"

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Arguably Taylor’s most beloved love song, “Something In The Way She Moves” is apparently the song Taylor played for the Beatles as he tried to convince them to sign him to their label. Obviously, it worked, and “Something In The Way She Moves” was released in 1968 on Taylor’s self-titled debut album.

9 out of 20

“Shower the people”

"shower people"

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Call it corny, but Taylor’s 1976 feel-good anthem “Shower The People” is honestly a solid life motto for these trying times. “Love shower the people you love, show them the way you feel,” he sings. “Things will be much better if you do.”

10 out of 20

“Don’t Let Me Be Alone Tonight”

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Appearing on Taylor’s 1972 “One Man Dog” album, “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” is a classic song that hurt me, with a lonely male protagonist who has lost the one he loved to cause of infidelity. Since its release, the song has been covered by a number of major artists, ranging from Liza Minelli to Joe Cocker to Garth Brooks.

11 out of 20

“You can close your eyes”

"You can close your eyes"

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James Taylor’s other beloved lullaby “You Can Close Your Eyes” appears on his 1971 album “Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon.” It’s more proof that Taylor writes one hell of a song to help babies – or adults! – head to dreamland.

12 out of 20

“If I Keep My Heart Out of Sight”

"If I keep my heart out of sight"

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Released on “JT” in 1977, “If I Keep My Heart Out of Sight” is a sweet, shy love song. The lyrics are ultimately hopeful if a little timid. “If I play my role well, hen tonight could be my lucky night,” he sings.And you could be mine if I keep my heart out of sight.”


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Even though James Taylor didn’t write “Handy Man”, he certainly recorded one of the most iconic versions of this song in 1977. It was a No. 1 hit, and the laid-back melody made it a favorite among Taylor’s devoted fans.

14 out of 20

“One Man Parade”

"One man parade"

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Although it wasn’t a major commercial success, critics praised “One Man Parade” after its release in 1973. It’s catchy and the delightfully original lyrics make it perfect for a single.

15 out of 20

“Your Smiling Face”

"Your smiling face"

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This sweet love song was written when James Taylor was in the honeymoon phase of his relationship with Carly Simon, as evidenced by its passionate lyrics. “Every time I see your smiling face in my direction,” he sings. “No one can tell me I’m doing it wrong today.” Aww.

"Only one"

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Joni Mitchell and Don Henley lent their vocal prowess to this upbeat 1985 James Taylor classic, which appears on his ‘That’s Why I’m Here’ album. It was a top ten hit, the only one from that album, and remains an enduring part of Taylor’s shows to this day.

"copper line"

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A testament to the copper-stained floor of her North Carolina home, “Copperline” is a loving testament to Taylor’s beloved Chapel Hill.

"Our city"

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A whole new generation of James Taylor was born after “Our Town” appeared in the popular animated film Disney Cars in 2006. Written by Randy Newman, “Our Town” won a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a movie and won an Oscar. nomination for Best Original Song.

"October Road"

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The title track from Taylor’s fifteenth studio album, “October Road,” proved that the artist still had the ability to move audiences when he debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts.

20 out of 20

“The Steamroller Blues”

"Steamroller Blues"

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This arguably silly blues parody was released in 1970 as a satire of what Taylor considered “inauthentic” music made by white artists of the time. It’s certainly one of his saltiest hits, though it remains a staple of Taylor’s live shows.