James Taylor may in fact be the quintessential man of his generation. He is the son of two highly accomplished parents, his father a physician and dean of the University of North Carolina medical school who served in the Arctic with Operation Deep Freeze, his mother a soprano who studied at the New England Conservatory of Music. A child of affluence bringing up the rear of the Age of Aquarius, he was in a mental institution by the time he was of high-school age, and then tried to launch a musical career but launched a career as a full-time junkie instead. His fortunes turned around when he inherited money and used his new status to move to London and exploit his social connections to link up with Paul McCartney and become rich and famous with a catchy song about what a complete screw-up he had been his entire life. At some point, this man who is so colorlessly country-club that he makes the Fox News weekday lineup look like the original cast of Hair declared himself a “churning urn of burning funk.” For the next few decades he proceeded to burden the world with a burgeoning catalog of insipid mediocrity until, finally, he descended to the lowest point a musician ever reaches, three steps down from busking in subway stations: He became a hired hand for politicians, playing with MoveOn.org’s “Vote for Change” tour through swing states on behalf of — small world! — John Kerry, our national personification of vanity, a kept man, dilettante, and Democratic time-server whose career was both launched and sustained by self-serving accounts of his service in the Vietnam War, a conflict that Taylor avoided by being declared mentally unfit to serve.
In our hour of need, the French gave us Lafayette. In theirs, we sent them the guy who drained all the sugar out of “How Sweet It Is” and substituted saccharin.
A word of advice: Next time, send Slayer.