The Paul McCartney compliment that “absolutely thrilled” James Taylor

Known as one of the most affable figures in music, Paul McCartney has praised many artists in his time, ranging from some of his more prominent peers to those working on the fringes. Love or loathe his material, there’s no doubt that the Liverpudlian has always had his finger on the pulse. This is something that James Taylor knows first-hand.

Notably, McCartney and Taylor have a long connection. Famously, Taylor provided George Harrison with the inspiration for one of the Beatles’ best ballads, ‘Something’. It was the title of his song ‘Something in the Way She Moves’ that the guitarist poached for the opening lyrics of the 1969 classic.

Taylor’s 1968 eponymous debut album was released through The Beatles’ Apple Records, with him the first non-British signing to their roster. To secure the deal, the 20-year-old American needed to audition in front of McCartney and Harrison, who were blown away by what they heard. Both Beatles were so enraptured that they went on to play on Taylor’s debut. Recalling the audition years later, McCartney said: “I just heard his voice and his guitar, and I thought he was great … and he came and played live, so it was just like, ‘Wow, he’s great.’”

Speaking to Guitar World in 2021, Taylor reflected on the life-changing moment he auditioned in front of one-half of The Beatles: “It was just otherworldly because I was a huge Beatles fan. And they were at the very height of their powers. They just kept going, kept growing. So, to be in London, the first person signed to their label in 1968, was really like catching the big wave. It was unbelievable.”

Whilst Harrison sadly passed away in 2001, McCartney has continued supporting Taylor and his music. Taylor revealed this when speaking to Rolling Stone in 2015, as he listed his life in 15 songs and outlined the former Beatle’s love of 2002’s ‘Mean Old Man’. In doing so, he also said he was “absolutely thrilled” at the compliment McCartney gave him to two songwriting greats.

Taylor said: “This one was a big accomplishment because it’s a sophisticated song and a throwback. Paul McCartney called me up and said that when he’d first heard it, he assumed it was Frank Loesser or Cole Porter. I was, of course, absolutely thrilled. At one point, Bob Dylan told me that he’d been listening to (Taylor’s song) ‘Frozen Man’ and really thought it was great, and that’s enough for me. Ten critics can savage me, but I’ll be fine as long as every once in a while, someone like Bob Dylan or Paul McCartney says, ‘Keep going, kid.’”

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