No matter where you fall on the spectrum of James Taylor fandom—be you casual “Carolina In My Mind” listener or proud collector of ticket stubs dating back to 1971—there’s no denying his talent for benevolence. One of the best-selling artists ever to emerge from the U.S., The Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has sold hundreds of millions of records since his self-titled 1968 debut, and he’s remained a steady and charitable sort throughout.
In 1970, his career as a folk crooner was just beginning to bloom, and you were more likely to find the Boston-born, North Carolina-raised musician perched on a stool than rocking out with a full band on stage. This particular show, recorded on this day (May 29) in 1970 at the Berkeley Community Theatre in California, finds Taylor at his peak solo acoustic setup. It’s just him and a guitar, free of editing and a backing band who might otherwise clog up the stage. In addition to covers of standards like “Oh Susanna” and even “Greensleeves,” he also tries on others like Joni Mitchell’s “Playing Real Good For Free” and his then-wife Carole King’s and Gerry Goffin’s “Up On The Roof.” Taylor also played familiar originals like “Carolina In My Mind” and “Something In The Way She Moves.” No matter how much time passes, or how far away you live from the Carolina foothills, there’s something warm and devastating in lines like “Say nice things about me ‘cause I’m gone south now / Got to carry on without me, I’m gone.” Taylor just knows how to pull you in.
Listen to the 1970 James Taylor concert below, courtesy of the Paste vault.