James Taylor, Self-Confessed “Yellow Dog Democrat,” Charms Washington at the National Press Club

The folk singer and advocate for President Obama talked politics and sang some of his greatest hits Friday.
James Taylor at the National Press Club. Photograph by NPC Staff/Sam Hurd.
James Taylor at the National Press Club. Photograph by NPC Staff/Sam Hurd.

There aren’t many people who could come to Washington, praise Noah Chomsky, describe
Richard Nixon’s walk as paleolithic, and still leave a bipartisan audience thoroughly
charmed, but James Taylor is definitely one of them.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, an advocate for President Obama who performed Thursday
night at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, addressed an audience of media
and fans at the National Press Club Friday, where he discussed his political activism
(he’s a self-confessed “yellow dog Democrat”), his thoughts on contemporary pop music
(“I guess I don’t like it a whole lot”), and whether he knows who the subject of Carly
Simon’s “You’re So Vain” is (he doesn’t).

The 64-year-old, who’s sold almost a hundred million records during his 40-plus-year
career, performed one of the first songs he ever wrote, “Something in the Way She
Moves,” which he also performed for Paul McCartney and George Harrison during his
audition for Apple Records at the age of 19. “It turned out well,” Taylor told the
audience. “George Harrison liked the song so much he went home and wrote it himself.”

Taylor also discussed his long history of political advocacy, which he said he owes
in part to former Republican senator Jesse Helms: “As an antagonist, I feel he helped
define me politically.” In the past, Taylor has campaigned for George McGovern, Ted
Kennedy, and Elizabeth Warren, as well as President Obama, whom he described as “a
wonderful President.” And he expounded on why he thinks politics is so dysfunctional
these days, saying, “People are looking for simple answers to complex questions, and
when you rush in with a simple answer, people flock to you.”

Taylor sang a few more songs, including “Carolina,” and “Sweet Baby James,” which
he talked about writing for his nephew. But he disappointed fans who hoped he might
one day run for office himself. “With my personal history? It’d be a massacre,” he
said.

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