Springsteen, Sting, Simon Serenade James Taylor With His Tunes
2/7/2006 7:44 PM PT
By BETH HARRIS, ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
From Bruce Springsteen's mournful harmonica on "Millworker" to Sting's acoustic guitar on "Close Your Eyes," a generation of singer-songwriters influenced by James Taylor paid tribute to him with their versions of his hits.
Stories abounded when a powerhouse lineup of Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, the Dixie Chicks, Dr. John and Taj Mahal kicked off Grammy week by honoring the 57-year-old Taylor as MusiCares Person of the Year on Monday night.
Crow was 12 when she saw Taylor at her first concert.
"It was the first time ever I heard 16,000 people sing in unison," she told 2,200 people at the Los Angeles Convention Center. "It was the first time I ever smelled pot and I knew I wanted to be a musician. This is for you, James. You changed my life."
Then she, Browne and Crosby launched into "Mexico," highlighted by a standout horn section.
Sting first saw Taylor as a 19-year-oldin Newcastle, England, in 1971.
"I'm a budding songwriter. At least Ithink I am," the former Police frontman recalled. "I want to seewhat all the fuss is about. Within four bars, I realize he's avirtuoso of the guitar. He starts to sing in this soft, richbaritone. I think, 'I have to change my career. I'll become a bassplayer in a punk band."'
Springsteen walked out with nointroduction, hailing the North Carolina-raised Taylor as "anauthentic Southern voice."
India.Arie showed off her fondness forTaylor by carrying onstage a purse with his black-and-white pictureon it. Alison Krauss sang "Carolina in My Mind," the Dixie Chicksharmonized on "Shower the People," and Simon opened the show withan acoustic version of "Sweet Baby James."
Raitt recalled being a college studentin Massachusetts and playing shows with Taylor.
"He used to let me open for him and hetuned my guitar," she said before singing "Rainy Day Man."
With companion Nicole Kidman keepingtime in the audience, Keith Urban played a driving guitar versionof "Country Road."
"Everyone has been telling these greatJames Taylor stories, and nothing for me says it better than thissong," Carole King said, launching into "You've Got aFriend."
Taylor joined her at the piano and theydueted on the final chorus of the song that was an individual hitfor both of them.
"I can't thank you enough for showingup. It's not the same without you," Taylor said. "It's strange tobe at an event like this and still be alive. It's very moving, veryterrifying and very wonderful to hear these songs done live."
It was a working evening for Taylor, whojoined his band for "Copperline" and "Shed a Little Light."
Taylor's brother, Livingston, sangbackup on "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" while Taylor'stwin 4-year-old sons, Rufus and Henry, jumped up and down to themusic and the crowd clapped along.
Taylor returned for an encore of hisclassic "Fire and Rain."