Song of the Day, April 21: You Can Close Your Eyes by Linda Ronstadt

ronstadtwheeleyesToday’s song is a multifaceted musical collaboration. James Taylor wrote You Can Close Your Eyes in 1970. He calls it a “secular hymn”, a touching meditation on loss and separation. The track appeared on his 1971 album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon and as the b-side of his #1 hit You’ve Got A Friend (written by Carole King). He has acknowledged that he wrote the song about his short, tumultuous affair with Joni Mitchell. The references to singing and sight are natural and poignant.

Linda Ronstadt included a cover of the song as the closing track of her finest album, Heart Like A Wheel. It’s a smart choice, and she makes the track her own. With a bittersweet delivery, she offers a sad farewell as she wraps up the disc. It’s a fine recording, nicely produced by Peter Asher and Andrew Gold, and a standout in her substantial catalog.

Enjoy this lovely song today.

BONUS: Enjoy this stirring version recorded by Taylor and Mitchell for the BBC.

Song of the Day, July 19: She Thinks I Still Care

StillCareJonesToday’s song is a country classic. Dickey Lee and Steve Duffy wrote She Thinks I Still Care in 1961 when they were under contract to producer Jack Clement. He was working closely with George Jones, and thought the song was a perfect fit. Jones disagreed, put off by “the number of ‘just becauses'” in it. Clement persevered, and in the end Jones relented. The result was a #1 Country smash that became a standard.

StillCareJTOver the years, dozens of artists have covered the song. Many female singers have transformed it into He Thinks I Still Care, including Connie Francis and Anne Murray, who both had chart success with it. Elvis gained airplay when he chose it as the B-side of his country hit Moody Blue. Other covers include versions by artists as diverse as Merle Haggard, Michael Nesmith, Kirsty MacColl, and Patty Loveless. James Taylor frequently performed the song in concert and included a flawlessly aching version on his delightful 1993 live album.

TeddyUpFrontMy favorite version was recorded by Teddy Thompson. His 2007 album Upfront & Down Low is set of classic country covers, a smart choice for his wistful vocals and musical inclinations. He makes the most of the pretending-not-to-care lyrics, using his vocal range to nice effect and investing an old classic with charming new energy.

Enjoy this recent addition to an amazing array of versions today.

Song of the Day, July 7: Fire and Rain by James Taylor

JTFireRainToday’s song is Fire and Rain, the launching point of James Taylor’s spectacular musical career, appearing on his second album, Sweet Baby James. A prototype for the confessional singer-songwriter sound of the early 70s, it is one of the most recognized and awarded songs of the rock era. Taylor wrote it in sections, reflecting on various events in his early life and career. The Suzanne of the lyrics is close friend Suzanne Schnerr, who committed suicide while Taylor was in London working on his first album. The “flying machines” are a reflection on art, fame and success, referring to his short-lived band James Taylor and the Flying Machine. The rest of the lyrics drawn on his experiences with addiction and depression, including time he spent institutionalized in high school. Gathering all these threads, Taylor crafted a potent lyric of pain and redemption, demonstrating personal strength and a willingness to move forward with his life despite early adversity.

Taylor’s vocal performance is one of his finest, a quiet but strong delivery anchored by his distinctive acoustic guitar work. Long-time collaborators Carole King — who would write Taylor’s #1 smash You’ve Got A Friend — and Russ Kunkel provide subtle but stirring piano and drums respectively. Personal but universal, painful but hopeful, iconic but distinctly his own, this song spent three weeks at #3 and was the first of Taylor’s 14 Top 40 hits, establishing him as a force to be reckoned with.
Enjoy this wonderful song today.
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