Fire and Rain (song)

Last updated
"Fire and Rain"
Fire and Rain James Taylor.jpg
Single by James Taylor
from the album Sweet Baby James
B-side
ReleasedFebruary 1970
Format 7-inch vinyl single
RecordedDecember 1969
Sunset Sound
Genre Soft rock, folk rock
Length3:20
Label Warner Bros.
Songwriter(s) James Taylor
Producer(s) Peter Asher
James Taylor singles chronology
"Sweet Baby James"
(1970)
"Fire and Rain"
(1970)
"Carolina in My Mind"
(1970)

"Fire and Rain" is a folk rock song written and performed by James Taylor. Released on Warner Bros. Records as a single from his second album, Sweet Baby James , in February 1970, the song follows Taylor's reaction to the suicide of Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend, and his experiences with drug addiction and fame. After its release, "Fire and Rain" peaked at number two on RPM 's Canada Top Singles chart and at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. [1]

Folk rock is a hybrid music genre combining elements of folk music and rock music, which arose in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom in the mid-1960s. In the U.S., folk rock emerged from the folk music revival and the influence that the Beatles and other British Invasion bands had on members of that movement. Performers such as Bob Dylan and the Byrds—several of whose members had earlier played in folk ensembles—attempted to blend the sounds of rock with their preexisting folk repertoire, adopting the use of electric instrumentation and drums in a way previously discouraged in the U.S. folk community. The term "folk rock" was initially used in the U.S. music press in June 1965 to describe the Byrds' music.

James Taylor American singer-songwriter and guitarist

James Vernon Taylor is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. A five-time Grammy Award winner, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

<i>Sweet Baby James</i> 1970 studio album by James Taylor

Sweet Baby James is the second album by American singer-songwriter James Taylor, and his first release on Warner Bros. Records. Released in February 1970, the album includes one of Taylor's earliest successful singles: "Fire and Rain", which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album itself reached #3 on the Billboard Album Charts. Sweet Baby James made Taylor one of the main forces of the ascendant singer-songwriter movement. The album was nominated to a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, in 1971. The album was listed at #104 on Rolling StoneMagazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Contents

Background and composition

On the VH1 series Storytellers , Taylor said the song was about several incidents during his early recording career. The second line "Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you" refers to Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend of his who committed suicide while he was in London, England, recording his first album. [2] In that same account, Taylor said he had been in a deep depression after the failure of his new band The Flying Machine to coalesce (the lyric "Sweet dreams and Flying Machines in pieces on the ground"; the reference is to the name of the band rather than a fatal plane crash, as was long rumored). Taylor completed writing the song while in rehab. [3]

VH1 American cable television network

VH1 is an American pay television network based in New York City owned by Viacom. It was originally created by Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment, at the time a division of Warner Communications and the original owner of MTV, and launched on January 1, 1985, in the former space of Turner Broadcasting System's short-lived Cable Music Channel.

<i>VH1 Storytellers</i> US television program

Storytellers is a television music series produced by the VH1 network.

<i>James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine</i> 1971 studio album by James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine

James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine is an archival release of 1966 recordings of American singer-songwriter James Taylor's band The Flying Machine, first released in February 1971.

In 2005, during an interview on NPR, Taylor explained to host Scott Simon that the song was written in three parts: [4]

Scott Simon American journalist

Scott Simon is an American journalist and the host of Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR.

Apple Records is a record label founded by the Beatles in 1968 as a division of Apple Corps Ltd. It was initially intended as a creative outlet for the Beatles, both as a group and individually, plus a selection of other artists including Mary Hopkin, James Taylor, Badfinger, and Billy Preston. In practice, the roster had become dominated by the mid-1970s with releases of the former Beatles as solo artists. Allen Klein managed the label from 1969 to 1973, then it was managed by Neil Aspinall on behalf of the Beatles and their heirs. Aspinall retired in 2007 and was replaced by Jeff Jones.

Paul McCartney English singer-songwriter and composer, bassist of The Beatles

Sir James Paul McCartney is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. He gained worldwide fame as the bass guitarist and singer for the rock band the Beatles, widely considered the most popular and influential group in the history of popular music. His songwriting partnership with John Lennon remains the most successful in history. After the group disbanded in 1970, he pursued a solo career and formed the band Wings with his first wife, Linda, and Denny Laine.

Peter Asher record producer

Peter Asher CBE is a British guitarist, singer, manager and record producer. He came to prominence in the 1960s as a member of the pop music vocal duo Peter and Gordon before going on to a successful career as a manager and record producer. As of 2018, he tours alongside Jeremy Clyde of Chad and Jeremy in a new duo entitled Peter and Jeremy, where they perform hits from both of their of respective catalogs.

Carole King played piano on the song. [5] Drummer Russ Kunkel used brushes rather than sticks on his drum kit, [6] and Bobby West played double bass [7] in place of a bass guitar to "underscore the melancholy on the song". [8]

Carole King American singer and songwriter

Carole King is an American singer-songwriter who has been active since 1958, initially as one of the staff songwriters at the Brill Building and later as a solo artist. She is the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century in the US, having written or co-written 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1955 and 1999. King also wrote 61 hits that charted in the UK, making her the most successful female songwriter on the UK singles charts between 1952 and 2005.

Russell Kunkel is an American drummer and producer who has worked as a session musician with many well-known artists, including Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Jimmy Buffett, Dan Fogelberg, Stephen Stills, Harry Chapin, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, Neil Diamond, Glenn Frey, and Carly Simon.

Double bass Acoustic stringed instrument of the violin family

The double bass, or simply the bass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra.

King has stated that her song "You've Got a Friend," which Taylor recorded, was a response to the line in the refrain that "I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend." [9] [10]

Youve Got a Friend 1971 song written by Carole King

"You've Got a Friend" is a 1971 song written by Carole King. It was first recorded by King, and included in her album Tapestry. Another well-known version is by James Taylor from his album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. His was released as a single in 1971 reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. The two versions were recorded simultaneously in 1971 with shared musicians.

Refrain line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse

A refrain is the line or lines that are repeated in music or in poetry; the "chorus" of a song. Poetic fixed forms that feature refrains include the villanelle, the virelay, and the sestina.

Taylor references the song in another of his compositions, "That's Why I'm Here," title track from his 1985 album, in which he writes, "Fortune and fame's such a curious game. Perfect strangers can call you by name. Pay good money to hear 'Fire and Rain' again and again and again."

Reception

Broadcast Music, Inc. ranked "Fire and Rain" at number 82 on its "Top 100 Songs of the Century" list, [11] while voters for the National Endowment for the Arts and Recording Industry Association of America's Songs of the Century list, which comprises 365 songs of "historical significance" recorded from 1900 to 2000, [12] placed "Fire and Rain" at number 85. [13] In April 2011, the song was named at number 227 on Rolling Stone 's list of 500 greatest songs of all time. [14]

Parodies

In 2015, Taylor appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert , where he sang a version including numerous references to post-1970 popular culture. [15]

Chart performance

Year-end charts

James Taylor
Chart (1970)Rank
Australia [21] 87
Canada [28] 26
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 [29] 67
U.S. Cash Box [30] 85

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References

  1. 1 2 "James Taylor Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  2. White, Timothy, and Mitchell Glazer. Long Ago and Far Away: James Taylor — His Life and Music. New York: Omnibus Press, 5th edition 2011, p. 141.
  3. NPR: All Things Considered. "Fire and Rain." June 6, 2000
  4. White, Timothy (2001). Long Ago and Far Away: James Taylor — His Life and Music. London: Omnibus. p. 5. ISBN   0-7119-8803-X.
  5. "Songs that shaped Rock and Roll: "Fire and Rain"". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  6. Mattingly, Rick (2003). "Brush Playing". In John Shepherd, David Horn, Dave Laing, Paul Oliver, Peter Wicke (eds.). Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. 2. A&C Black. p. 120.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  7. "Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: 'Fire and Rain'". Archived from the original on 2015-09-09. Retrieved 2015-06-04.
  8. Browne, David (2012). Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Bittersweet Story Of 1970. Da Capo Press. p. 116.
  9. "James Taylor: My Life in 15 Songs". Rolling Stone . August 13, 2015. pp. 23–25.
  10. White, T. (August 4, 2015). "James Taylor Looks Back on His Classics". Easy 93.1 FM. Retrieved 2015-08-10.
  11. "BMI Announces Top 100 Songs of the Century". Broadcast Music, Inc. December 13, 1999.
  12. "RIAA, NEA Announce 'Songs of the Century'". Recording Industry Association of America. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  13. "Top 365 Songs". Quad-City Times. Lee Enterprises. AP. March 8, 2001. Archived from the original on June 6, 2015.
  14. "500 Greatest Songs of All Time: 227: James Taylor, 'Fire and Rain'". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media, LLC. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  15. "R.B. Greaves Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  16. "R.B. Greaves Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  17. Downey, Albert, and Hoffmann, p. 145
  18. "Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 82 (37): 67. September 12, 1970. ISSN   0006-2510.
  19. Downey, Albert, and Hoffmann, p. 289
  20. 1 2 "Australian Chart Book". Austchartbook.com.au. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  21. "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3718." RPM . Library and Archives Canada. November 21, 1970.
  22. "James Taylor: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  23. "James Taylor Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  24. Downey, Albert, and Hoffmann, p. 343
  25. "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 4080." RPM . Library and Archives Canada.
  26. Whitburn, Joel (2005). Joel Whitburn's Top Country Songs: 1944–2005. Record Research. p. 267.
  27. "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca.
  28. "Top 100 Hits of 1970/Top 100 Songs of 1970". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  29. "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1970". Tropicalglen.com. 1970-12-26. Retrieved 2016-10-03.

Bibliography

  • Downey, Pat; Albert, George; Hoffmann, Frank W (1994). Cash Box pop singles charts, 1950–1993. Libraries Unlimited. ISBN   978-1-56308-316-7.