James Taylor Songs
One of the great songwriters of modern American music, James Taylor has influenced dozens of other artists over the course of his career. From contemporaries like Jackson Browne to younger stars like Taylor Swift, it’s not hard to find musicians who’ve been deeply impacted by Taylor’s personal, confessional brand of storytelling.
Many of these artists have paid their respect to Taylor publicly by covering his many hits, like “Fire and Rain” and “Carolina in My Mind,” in concert. Here are 12 of the best James Taylor covers by famous stars like Elvis Presley, Eddie Vedder, Miranda Lambert, and many others.
Eric Clapton covers “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”
Blues legend Eric Clapton has covered James Taylor songs in concert a number of times, but one of the best covers has to be his version of “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.” Clapton’s powerful vocal performance brings out the longing in Taylor’s adored 1972 track.
Bonnie Raitt covers “Rainy Day Man”
Another blues icon, Bonnie Raitt has been a friend and collaborator of Taylor’s for decades. She first covered Taylor’s song “Rainy Day Man” on her 1974 album “Streetlights,” and the song has been a staple of her live show ever since.
Elvis Presley covers “Steamroller Blues”
Beginning in the 1970s “The King” included Taylor’s “Steamroller Blues” on the setlist of many of his live shows. Taylor originally wrote the song as a blues parody, but Elvis delivers the song with the familiar Memphis drawl that has come to define early mainstream rock and roll.
Taylor Swift covers “Fire and Rain”
During Taylor Swift’s Speak Now Tour in 2011, the then-country star invited James Taylor on stage at Madison Square Garden to sing his hit “Fire and Rain.” Before they played the duet, Swift told her audience she has a personal connection with the legendary singer-songwriter: She was named after him.
Eddie Vedder covers “You Can Close Your Eyes”
Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder is better known for singing hard rock anthems than slow acoustic ballads, but his cover of Taylor’s 1971 B-side “Close Your Eyes” is a testament to the versatility of his voice. Featuring Dixie Chicks frontwoman Natalie Maines, this duet is a sweet, stripped-down performance of Taylor’s lullaby-like hit.
Tori Amos covers “Millworker”
Tori Amos has performed a handful of James Taylor covers in concert, including bigger hits like “Carolina in My Mind” and “Fire and Rain.” In 2005 she switched things up with a stark, graceful piano cover of his deep cut “Millworker.”
Garth Brooks covers “Carolina in My Mind”
On March 12 of this year, country legend Garth Brooks honored Taylor on his 68th birthday by performing a cover of the singer’s “Carolina in My Mind.” The crowd in Raleigh, N.C., sings along to almost every word of the classic James Taylor song at this live show.
Linda Ronstadt covers “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up on the Jukebox”
One of the strongest voices in the history of American country and folk, Linda Ronstadt covered Taylor’s wistful “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up on the Jukebox” at a number of her live shows in the 1970s. Here’s vintage footage of one of those concerts.
Jimmy Buffett covers “Mexico”
Known for his carefree, beach-bum approach to life, Jimmy Buffett is a prime candidate to cover Taylor’s 1975 song “Mexico.” The buoyant, lively song is not a typical entry in Taylor’s catalog, but it’s a perfect addition to Buffett’s notoriously laid-back live shows.
Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe cover “You’ve Got a Friend”
It’s a well-known fact that country stars Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe are best friends, so it’s no surprise that the two chose to perform a cover of “You’ve Got a Friend” at a concert earlier this year. (Technically this is a cover of James Taylor’s cover of Carole King.) You can see Lambert and Monroe’s friendship shine through in their performance of this classic hit, making it one of the more personal entries on this list.
Jackson Browne and The Watkins Siblings cover “Sweet Baby James”
James Taylor is known for performing at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass., each Fourth of July. His friend and fellow songwriting icon Jackson Browne stepped in to fill Taylor’s shoes one year, bringing Nickel Creek’s Sean and Sara Watkins out for a performance of “Sweet Baby James.”
Tedeschi Trucks Band covers “Fire and Rain”
Tedeschi Trucks Band delivers one of the most unique James Taylor covers to feature into this list. A regular entry on the band’s live setlists, this inspired performance of “Fire and Rain” infuses elements of soul, gospel, and blues, giving fans a powerful new take on a well-loved classic.