Taylor Sings to Ravinia Crowd’s Soul

Audience reacts to music spanning more than a generation.

showed a sold out audience why he is a troubadour for a generation and more Friday with an evening of mostly song and some conversation.

With songs like “That’s Why I’m Here,” “Cowboy Lullaby,” “Fire and Rain” and “Carolina in My Mind,” Taylor explained and demonstrated why his music strikes a chord for audiences around the world.

Taylor, 64, idolized the Beatles and in 1968 found himself in London face to face with the music legends. He had just signed a contract with the group’s record label. His career was taking off but some feelings were mixed.

“It was an extremely good year for me,” Taylor said. “George (Harrison) and Paul (McCartney) were there (in the room). I was surrounded by my absolute idols but I was wretchedly homesick.” With that he began to strum his guitar and sang “Carolina in My Mind.”

With that song he showed the crowd his human side. As much as he was thrilled with the direction of his career, he longed for home and family. Though always welcome to the ear, the song will make more sense now each time it is heard.

Jonathan Plotkin of Highland Park has been listening to Taylor’s music most of his life. He continues to find meaning and learn something about himself each time the Taylor music plays.

“James Taylor is the soundtrack of our lives,” Plotkin said. “It is so intimate. He is a magician who can show us the type of person we have been, what we can be and what we have yet to see.”

Some of the time Taylor wrote a song that was personal to him but found a way to touch what is common to all. One was a tune written for his newly born nephew as he returned from the London trip where he worked with the Beatles.

While he was away in London with his mind never far from his home in North Carolina, a new family member came into the world and he was touched the boy was named James.

“I had been overseas for a year when I came to know the next generation of my family came into the world and he was named for me,” Taylor said. “I was driving to North Carolina and somewhere in Virginia this song came through the window.”

With that explanation, he again began to strum his guitar and out came “Cowboy Lullaby.” To some in the audience, the guitar is an important part of the act. “He’s a great picker,” Debbie Wiggens of Aurora said of Taylor’s guitar playing.

Wiggens was part of a group of four who have heard Taylor before. The first time was 30 years ago. Though his looks have changed over the years, his music remains unchanged for Wiggens. “His voice is still the same,” she said.

For others, a Ravinia outing is not just about the music but the entire experience. Rick Heinemann of Highland Park enjoyed the concert but the entire Ravinia package added to a special evening.

“What I love about Ravinia is the entire experience; the culture the music, the food,” Heinemann said. “It is such a pleasant experience.”

Allen roiter July 30, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Saturday evening's performance was very moving. James Taylor is directly connected to his audience.
J. Jankowski July 30, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Unfortunately a very bad experience for us at the Sat. night show. A group of loud drunks were sitting next to us. Didn't stop yelling the entire show. My GF spoke to them, they told her to "F*** off and get security". we did that.. ZERO. the guy didn't do anything. total farce. Ravinia is clearly overselling these top tier shows
Jacob Nelson July 30, 2012 at 08:01 PM
That's really too bad. You'd think James Taylor wouldn't attract a loud, drunken crowd. What happened when security came over?
Bryce Robertson July 30, 2012 at 08:09 PM
From deep experience with Ravinia, when you encounter patrons like these, the best thing to do is first alert security. If and when they don't do anything (such as in this case), find a police officer. I've seen this often, and the HP/occasionally Deerfield police will escort them out and make an arrest if necessary. At any show that is near or at capacity, there are always adequate policing forces. If you have trouble finding a cop, the entrance to the Opus lot always has one or two at ANY show. This is the parking lot nearest the carousel. A Ravinia ticket agent can give you a hand stamp at the exit so you can re-enter with the police officer. The unfortunate thing is, whether or not the show is sold out or undersold, there will always be patrons of this type. It's just par for the course, as it is at any other concert, sporting event, or really anything open to the public.
J. Jankowski July 31, 2012 at 09:09 PM
The "security" officer did nothing. these guys are min. wage guys who mostly walk around on the sidewalks.. looking busy. they don't venture out into the lawn to deal with the drunks. I don't have time to walk around looking for a real police officer, nor is it my job-- It's Ravinia's job. that's my point. they;re charging $34 bucks for a lawn seat now.. and it's anarchy w/ the drunks. this is a high class venue?? I mean c'mon. this was not a Metallica show.. it was JT.


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