In high school, I got in the habit of sleeping with headphones on. I was convinced that I couldn't sleep without my music, and who knows - maybe it was true. I listened to the radio - sometimes rock, occasionally all-night trucker radio, and on Sunday nights, Dr. Demento on 98.1 The Zoo.
My second year of college, I lived in a tiny two-room rental house that had been someone's slave quarters many years before. I'd never lived alone, and for the most part, I loved it. But I hated the nights. I slept not with headphones, but with my stereo playing softly enough that I could hear scary noises should they happen to occur.
I had a mix tape that I played most every night during those 9 months. It started with James Taylor's Greatest Hits, then moved on to several Simon and Garfunkel songs before the 90-minute tape ran out. I still remember what the tape looked like - it had a clear body - Memorex, I think - with bright yellow and magenta blocks of color on it where I wrote "Goodnight Moonlight Ladies". I can't believe I remember that.
Sometimes, the tape played through and I'd still be lying there trying to fall asleep, watching the shadows dance on the wall across the room. Most times, though, I'd drift off to James Taylor's soothing vocals, and awaken briefly when the stereo's "play" button popped up at the end of the tape. For some reason, I was sort of embarrassed about my love for his music. Whatever. I had dozens of classic rock albums and 80s tapes; posters of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Pink Floyd adorned my walls. But it was James Taylor who rocked me to sleep.
When I finally converted to CDs in the early 90s, James Taylor's Greatest Hits was the first one I bought. His voice is so pure, so smooth, so unpretentious. There's nothing fancy about it, nothing cheesy, nothing showy. He exudes a gentleness that eases my mind and calms my soul. Forty-plus years after he first hit the scene, his music is still relevant. I can't listen to him and not be moved.
Oh, rockabye, Sweet Baby James.