FOR all of the drugs, darkness and despair that has characterised James Taylor’s life, Darren Coggan reckons the prolific singer-songwriter’s story is ultimately one of resilience, inspiration and positivity.
Coggan has been a fan of Taylor’s music since childhood.
“Technically, it’s very challenging to play as a guitarist,” he said.
“It’s the music that I listen to when I’m at home.”
And it’s the music Coggan has taken to the stage for his new show, Fire and Rain: The James Taylor Songbook.
“It’s the music that first attracted me, but it was only when I started studying his music for this show, and looking into him as a person, that I realised that he’d led such a tortured life,” Coggan said.
“He’s had a lot of issues with addiction, and depression, and he’s been in and out of psychiatric hospitals. And I had no idea that element was attached to these great songs which are just so inspiring and beautiful.”
Coggan reckoned the music and the stories would make for a fantastic evening of entertainment, and his audiences agree.
“The show’s only very new, we’ve done about half a dozen performances. I think people come along expecting to hear all of those great songs, but walk away with a whole lot more, and an insight into this person.”
There are 25 songs in the show, and while it’s not a biography, Coggan gives his audience occasional anecdotes about Taylor, and stories behind some of the songs, to help bring new perspectives to the works.
“But the underlying theme to his story is that we all have the ability to make changes to our lives should we not be content with who we are, or where we are,” Coggan said.
“And I think James Taylor is a great example of that. He really owned his illness, and at the end of the day he had the strength and the courage, and the friends around him, to exorcise those demons.
“He came thought it all, and he came out the other side intact. And I think it was his music that was a big part of his being rescued. Music was his outlet. That was the place that he could find some kind of solace.”
Coggan said it was the mark of a great songwriter to be able to write an intensely personal and autobiographical song that resonates with audiences everywhere.
“These songs in a way became anthems for people all over the world,” Coggan said.
“If you can write songs that comes from a place that’s very personal to you, but can speak to millions of people so that they feel like the song was written for them as well, that’s quite remarkable.”
Coggan said there were many surprising anecdotes that he had discovered about Taylor.
One involved Taylor and John Lennon, who were due to meet up in New York on December 9, 1980. Tragically, that meeting never occurred because Lennon was shot dead on December 8.
“James was staying across the street from the Dakota building in an apartment on the day before John Lennon was shot,” Coggan said.
“On that day before Lennon was shot, the same guy who shot Lennon, Mark David Chapman, approached James Taylor as he was coming out of the subway. He was looking for an autograph and he had a whole bunch of songs that he’d written that he was trying to give to James.
“He was clearly a bit manic and obsessive and James managed to scrape him off and walk away into his apartment.
“When I heard that story I thought, ‘My goodness, it could well have been James that was murdered’.”
The women in Taylor’s life also figure in the show, as do some humorous aspects of the man’s life.
But most of all, the show was about the music, Coggan said.
Fans expected to hear Taylor’s songs presented accurately, as they remembered them from the record, and that’s what Coggan said he and his two accompanists aimed to deliver.
“Musically, we’ve tried to recreate those beautiful melodies, the way he plays his guitar, and all of those signature elements to a James Taylor concert that people have been drawn to over the years.”
Among the James Taylor favourites Coggan performs in the show are How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You, Country Road, Carolina On My Mind, Sweet Baby James, You’ve Got A Friend, Shower The People and Fire and Rain.
Darren Coggan will perform Fire and Rain: The James Taylor Songbook at The Art House, Wyong, on Friday, March 9. Tickets cost $50.
- Visit thearthousewyong.com.au