More than 200 years ago, Scottish poet and songwriter Robert Burns gave to the world “Auld Lang Syne,” an ode to parting, reunion, and peacemaking adapted from the verses and chorus of a vintage folk tune. In the centuries that followed, the words of Burns’ adaptation were sung in numerous languages, becoming a popular end-of-year tribute around the world and touching generations of souls. One life in particular impacted by the lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne” was that of folk singer-songwriter Kate Taylor, the sister of musician James Taylor and a talented performer in her own right. After a 20-year absence, the classic song played a significant role in inspiring her return to the recording studio. “I think the wisdom you gain from life experiences should get folded into your performances as an artist,” she explained, as quoted by Timothy White in Billboard. Thus, her decision to release a contemporary version of “Auld Lang Syne” as her new album’s first single, available since November of 1999, reflected Taylor’s desire to provide her long-patient fans with a collection of “new material that has truly meant something in my life.”
Born in New England, raised in North Carolina, and residing principally on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard since the early-1970s, Taylor, like Burns, came from Scottish heritage. Her ancestors sailed to North Carolina from the Angus Coast of Scotland in 1790, and since then, the family divided time between that state and the Northeast. Growing up, Taylor shared a dual musical heritage with brothers James, Livingston, Hugh, and Alex, who all became accomplished in music. Because of her Southern upbringing, Taylor was deeply rooted in the region’s soul, gospel, and rockabilly sounds, while the stylings of literate folk, pop, and Appalachian music completed that family’s musical legacy. “I’ve been influenced by many musical traditions and they all weave through what I do,” explained Taylor on her official website. “My music has at various times been described as pop, folk, rock, rockabilly, country, gospel and R&B. Growing up in the South, I was exposed to a wonderful diversity of musical styles.”
By the age of 15, Taylor was fronting her own band, and at age 19, signed her first record contract with Atlantic/Cotillion Records. Backed by a wealth of talent, including contributions by James Taylor on guitar, Carole King on piano and backing vocals, Linda Ron-stadt on backing vocals, and the Memphis Horns (Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love), Taylor released her debut album, Sister Kate, in 1971. Many of the songs were penned by some of pop music’s most recognized names, including “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun” and “Country Comfort,” written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. That same year, Rolling Stone hailed the Taylor clan as “The First Family of the New Rock.”
Taylor released her self-titled follow-up for Columbia Records in 1978. Produced by James Taylor—who
Began fronting own band at age 15; signed with Atlantic Records at age 19; released debut album Sister Kate, 1971; signed with Columbia Records, released Kate Taylor, 1978; released It’s In There… And It’s Got to Come Out, 1979; performed on club circuit, focused on raising a family, 1980s and 1990s; released “Auld Lang Syne” on own Front Door Records, 1999; released Beautiful Road, 2000.
Addresses: Record company —Front Door Records, P.O. Box 426, Aquinnah, MA 02535, (877) 933-7339. Booking —Hummingbird Productions, P.O. Box 426, Aquinnah, MA 02535. E-mail —Business office: [email protected], other mail: [email protected] Website —Kate Taylor: http://www.katetaylor.com.
also played guitar, sang background vocals, developed the vocal and horn arrangements, and wrote the track “Happy Birthday Sweet Darling” and co-wrote the song “Slow and Steady” with Zach Weisner for his sister’s second outing—and Lew Hahn, Kate Taylor also included songs by notable writers, such as Ike Turner’s “A Fool in Love” and Marvin Gaye’s “Stubborn Kind of Woman.” In addition, the collection featured a song co-written by James entitled “Jason & Ida” and a track by their brother Livingston called “Rodeo,” as well as contributions by their brother Hugh and Carly Simon on background vocals, David Sanborn on saxophone, Randy Brecker on trumpet and tenor saxophone, and other notables.
The following year, 1979, gave rise to a third album for Columbia entitled It’s In There…And It’s Got to Come Out. For this collection, Taylor enlisted the aid of Nashville producer Barry Beckett and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, featuring Beckett on piano, Jimmy Johnson on guitar, David Hood on bass, and Roger Hawkins on drums, with Sanborn on saxophone, Dandy McCormick on organ, Pete Carr on electric guitar, Larry Byron on acoustic guitar, and Weldon Myrick on steel guitar. Taylor’s brothers, minus James, served as background vocalists.
All of Taylor’s recordings, as well as her live shows, drew exceptional responses from critics and folk audiences alike. However, the young singer’s fans would wait more than 20 years for a forthcoming album. While remaining active on the folk rock circuit throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Taylor nonetheless chose to dedicate most of her energy to raising a family with her husband and manager, songwriter Charles Witham. The couple, married since 1974, had three daughters: Aquinnah, born in 1973; Elizabeth, born in 1975; and Aretha, born in 1981. “All of our beautiful daughters have sung with me onstage,” Taylor emphasized with joy, as quoted by White, “and Aretha can sing her ass off, but the latest album has taken a long time because life goes on and stuff happens. Now f want to share with people, as best I can, just what my life has been and who I am.”
Like most people, Taylor has lived through times of suffering as well as joy. The 1990s were especially difficult, during which time Taylor’s 46-year-old brother, Alex, died of a heart attack in 1993 and her 75-year-old father, Isaac Taylor, passed away in 1996. Nevertheless, Taylor titled her album Beautiful Road after an emotionally moving Erica Wheeler song she covers on the record. Released on Taylor’s own Front Door Records in 2000, Beautiful Road revealed similar sentiments throughout, particularly on the track “Blue Tin Suitcase,” composed in memory of her late brother, and on “I Will Fly,” written by Taylor’s husband featuring vocals by Kate and James Taylor. Witham penned the song as an elegy for guitarist Arlen Roth’s wife and daughter, who tragically perished in a car accident in 1998.
While fans waited for Beautiful Road’s release, Taylor released “Auld Land Syne” as a single in November of 1999. For Taylor’s recording, the classic song most associated with New Year’s celebrations was refashioned with acoustic guitars, violin, upright bass, and Taylor’s gentle, American folk-styled vocals. The music was arranged by James Taylor, who also played guitar and sang background vocals on the single, and Witham and Tony Gamier served as producers.
Taylor’s folk-infused version of “Auld Lang Syne,” was born when she decided to perform the ode at her annual winter concert at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard in 1998. Previously, while considering songs to include for the program, Taylor came up with “Auld Lang Syne” as one possibility, but like many people, realized she only knew one verse. Therefore, Witham contacted a librarian friend, Kristin Maloney, who helped him locate a copy of Burns’ original lyrics, and adapted from the manuscript a second verse. “When we realized the meaning of the lyrics—about reconciliation, forgiveness, and recognizing what’s important—it just felt so good,” recalled Taylor, as quoted by Chuck Taylor of Billboard, “and then James added his magical touch.”
In keeping with the song’s true intentions, Taylor donated all proceeds from her single, including a signed edition of “Auld Lang Syne” auctioned off through an internet service, to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. “Reflecting upon the song it became clear that the underlying sentiments have more than just a seasonal value,” Taylor stated for her website. “Yet at the close of each year there’s communicating we all need to do, because it’s all about community. The beauty of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is in its simplicity. Since our own performance of it is from the heart, we hope that’s where it goes.”
Sister Kate, Atlantic/Cotillion, 1971.
Kate Taylor, Columbia, 1978.
It’s In There…And It’s Got to Come Out, Columbia, 1979.
“Auld Lang Syne,” Front Door, 1999.
Beautiful Road, Front Door, 2000.
Billboard, November 11, 1999; December 25, 1999/January 1, 2000.
Kate Taylor, http://www.katetaylor.com (September 10, 2000).
"Taylor, Kate." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/taylor-kate
"Taylor, Kate." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved December 10, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/taylor-kate
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