by Kevin Burton
In the great human family James Taylor got the voice. The rest of us are just making do.
That’s a favorite old saying of mine. It may be difficult to stick to it, given the thousands of talented singers we’ve heard over the years. But every time I listen to Taylor, especially if I haven’t heard him in a while, my mind goes there.
Most Tuesdays we talk music on Page 7. During 2022 we will feature songs that peaked at 22 on the US singles chart. One such song is “Shower The People,” the first song on Taylor’s 1976 Album “In The Pocket.”
There isn’t a lot of songfacts-type speculation on the song lyrics because everything you need to know is in the hook. Shower the people you love with love, show them the way you feel.
We do have this from songfacts about Taylor’s first career aspirations.
“James Taylor originally planned to be a chemist. He told Billboard magazine: “That was the expectation – that I’d study science. But my father was strangely unenthusiastic about what he did. I assumed they had expectations of me, because they sent me to a boarding school whose entire focus was preparing you for college. Then I had my teenage emotional breakdown. Some teachers and friends suggested I get evaluated. I was sent to McLean [a psychiatric hospital outside Boston], and they kept me for 10 months.”
Shower the people obviously represents a good life plan. Check your to-do list. Did Taylor’s admonition make the list? It’s amazing how little we do it. Then you find time has slipped away, while we rushed around after, not much.
Cash Box wrote that the song is “a meaningful ballad that will pick up a lot of FM airplay.” It did. Just about any James Taylor release in the 70s would. But it didn’t take off the way some of his other songs did.
Cash Box also said that it has “a way with melody and phrasing” similar to other Taylor songs. Taylor’s then wife Carly Simon sings harmony on the track.
Over the years Shower The People has become a concert favorite for Taylor fans. Arnold McCuller is often featured as a backing singer on the song, including on a live set I have played to death. Shower The People is not a ringing, rallying anthem, which may be why it stalled half way up the top 40. Some may have found it too touchy-feely.
“Taylor has, at times, faced a backlash over the emotion in his music and maybe it is way too sentimental for fans who want to be cynically cool,” wrote reviewer Steve Baltin in Forbes. “It is definitely uncool to share your feelings as Taylor advises to do in “Shower The People,” where he sings, ‘Just shower the people you love with love/Show them the way that you feel.’ But that unbridled optimism and sentimentality have also created an almost 50-year career for Taylor, who has never gone out of style with his millions of fans or the artists who love him.”
“And what you plan to do with your foolish pride when you’re all by yourself alone?” is a reasonable question for the cool and uncool alike.
“So very often, we hold back, not expressing ourselves and fearful of rejection if we actually express our feelings openly and honestly to people we care about,” reads a message on the ABC’s of success blog on the subject of Shower The People. “We feel vulnerable and exposed to speak from the heart.”
“Being stoic and silent is considered to be strength by some, even though it is actually a weakness based on insecurity. We expect that the ones we care about will just know that we care – even if nothing is ever said,” the post reads.
“In The Pocket.” Was Taylor’s last album for Warner Brothers before signing with Columbia Records. The album didn’t sell well despite a who’s who of contributors, including Art Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, David Crosby Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt among others, according to Wikipedia.