Song 305: James Taylor, “Something in the Way She Moves” (1976)Posted: November 2, 2013
I get why James Taylor’s rep is not so cool. He’s very, very sincere, and he makes songs called “Shower the People” and “Secret of Life.” But look: I grew up in New England, where Taylor is treated like an unofficial mascot. He’s the sound of road trips and grown-up dinner parties. He’s just kind of a given, and he’s welcome every place, any time, in New England (even when he forgets which America-themed song he’s supposed to sing at Fenway Park).
My favorite James Taylor song has always been “Something in the Way She Moves,” a song about how nice James Taylor feels when the person he loves is around. The concept is very simple, so the arrangement is sparse: there’s just guitar, bass, and vocals. I also love that this is not a song about the joy of being in love, it’s about feeling comfortable and content when in the presence of the woman he not only loves, but likes best. If she’s talking, It doesn’t matter what words she uses: “she says them mostly just to calm me down.” That’s an important thing to have.
“Something in the Way She Moves” first appeared on Taylor’s self-titled debut in 1968. James Taylor was one of the first releases on the Beatles’ Apple Records (George Harrison nicked the title of this song as the first line of his great song, and the phrase “I feel fine” pops up here in homage). Because of contractual reasons, “Something in the Way She Moves” and “Carolina In My Mind” had to be re-recorded for Taylor’s Greatest Hits in 1976, and those are the versions that get the most attention today.
Around the time that James Taylor was released, Taylor fell back in to heroin addiction after a brief break from the drug; for this reason, he was unable to promote the record, and James Taylor didn’t sell. Which leads me to something else: you’d never guess it, but James Taylor has been through some shit. He stayed at McLean Hospital for severe depression and battled heroin addiction much of his young adult life. In my opinion, this background has always lent a bit of sadness to Taylor’s music. Even when he’s singing about showering the people with love, his voice always has an edge of disappointment, as if he’s trying to comfort himself back to happiness with his warm blanket of a voice.
Some would argue that James Taylor’s voice is more of a wet blanket than a warm one, but don’t listen to them. Just listen to him sing about how nice it is to have someone to love, and, like Taylor, be thankful for simple things.