How James Taylor Shed His Brooding Past With ‘Gorilla’
James Taylor became a star in the early ‘70s by combining mellow folk-pop with brutally honest introspective lyrics. But by the middle of the decade, he was looking to move into a lighter direction. That decision resulted in Gorilla, which was released on May 1, 1975.
It made sense. After all, he was ridiculously successful and married to Carly Simon, whose star power and charisma was equal to his own. To the outside world, there was little reason for Taylor to be mopey.
This new path is reflected in the first verse of the opener, “Mexico,” in which he sings “Lose your load / Leave your mind behind, Baby James.” The song barely made the top half of the Billboard Hot 100, but was a smash on the Adult Contemporary chart and remains a concert favorite.
Themes of domestic bliss permeate the record, especially “I Was a Fool to Care,” “Love Songs” and “Sarah Maria” (written about his daughter, who was born the year before). Taylor even indulged his rarely seen whimsical side on the title track. But it was most evident on the first single, a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You),” which features prominent background vocals by Simon.
Still, Taylor didn’t entirely shed his past. “Wanderin’,” “Angry Blues” and “Lighthouse,” which featured glorious harmonies by David Crosby and Graham Nash, showed that he could still brood as effectively as before. And “You Make It Easy” was a tale of infidelity that surely must have required some explaining to Simon.
If Goriilla, which peaked at No. 6, narrowly failed to reach the Top Five chart positions of Sweet Baby James, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon and One Man Dog, it was nonetheless a nice rebound after the relative commercial disappointment of its predecessor, Walking Man. Taylor would spend the rest of the decade as one of the more reliable artists of his day.
But shortly after the release of 1981’s Dad Loves His Work, he and Simon split. He took a few years off before resurfacing in 1985 with That’s Why I’m Here. Since then, he’s maintained his profile as a steady live draw while intermittently putting out new records.