"As Far As I Can Go"
James Taylor turned 72 the day after the coronavirus was first deemed a “pandemic,” but neither the virus nor his age seem to be slowing Taylor down. Over his long career, which has lasted over 50 years, Taylor has gained valuable insights about healthy aging—which are helpful even for those without celebrity status.
Taylor’s success has been steady as he’s aged: he’s earned gold or platinum albums in every single one of the past five decades. Back in 1976, he released an album of “greatest hits,” but it turned out that he was far from finished producing great hit music; his first album to top the Billboard 200 chart was Before This World, which he released in 2015.
Now, late in life, his focus has turned back to his years before this illustrious career began; this past January, he released a memoir called Break Shot: My First 21 Years. In an interview with Parade magazine about the new book, Taylor reflects on the way his perspective has changed since those early years, saying: “When I was 17, I couldn’t believe that people who were 70 years old weren’t an entirely different species. But when you get to be 70, you’re still the same person.”
The following month, in February, he looked even further back in time with the release of his Great American Songbook, a cover collection of songs by writers of the 1920s through ‘50s. “My motivation to express myself is not as urgent as it was,” he told Parade in the same interview. Instead, his reverence for the American Standards has only grown as that era has become further bygone.
As a father to two sets of children who are a generation apart, Taylor has learned a lot about parenting in different stages of life. Not only does he believe it’s better to wait until you’re on the older side to become a parent—once “you’re settled down enough; you’re not constantly trying to find your place”—he also believes that people “should marry in pairs—an older couple and a younger couple. The older would take the place of grandparents who raise the children” while “the younger couple make a life for themselves. When we had multigenerational families, that would happen.” As caring for both aging parents and children—with and without a pandemic—continues to pose tremendous challenges for parents the world over, Taylor’s call for more intergenerational cooperation seems particularly wise.
As though his year wasn’t already busy enough, Taylor has also become politically active. On Thursday, he headlined “Grassroots Fest,” a fundraiser for the Biden presidential campaign. In the past, Taylor has also campaigned for Barack Obama in 2012 and advocated for election reform.
Looking ahead, Taylor expects to remain active: touring, writing, and spending time outdoors near his restored farmhouse in the mountains of western Massachusetts. He told the LA Times after his memoir release: “I’m still writing. I feel as though I’ve done this all my life, and I just want to take it as far as I can go.” As many Americans think about working longer and aging actively, Taylor’s steady vitality can serve as inspiration.