Eric Taylor, one of the most respected and influential songwriters from the Texas folk scene, passed away on March 9, 2020, at the age of 70. He left behind a legacy of poetic and powerful songs that inspired many of his fellow musicians and fans. In this article, we will explore his life, his music, and his impact on the Americana genre.
Early Life and Influences
Eric Taylor was born on September 25, 1949, in Atlanta, Georgia. He grew up in a racially diverse neighborhood and developed a love for black music, especially blues and soul. He learned to play guitar as a child and started writing songs at an early age. He was also influenced by literature and poetry, especially by writers such as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and James Joyce.
In 1970, he decided to pursue a career in music and headed to California, but he ran out of money in Houston, Texas. This turned out to be a fortunate detour, as he found himself in the midst of a vibrant and creative folk music scene. He befriended and learned from legendary artists such as Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, and Lyle Lovett. He also met and married singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith, who would later cover many of his songs and introduce him to a wider audience.
Musical Style and Career
Eric Taylor was known for his distinctive style of songwriting, which combined spoken word, storytelling, and lyrical imagery. He often used historical and fictional characters as the protagonists of his songs, such as Jesse James, Huey Long, Dean Moriarty, and Clyde Barrow. He also wrote about personal experiences, such as his struggles with alcoholism, his divorce from Griffith, and his love for his second wife, Susan Lindfors Taylor, who was also his musical partner.
Taylor’s songs were not only rich in content, but also in form. He was a master of finger-style guitar playing, which added complexity and nuance to his melodies. He also experimented with different tunings, capos, and harmonics to create unique sounds. He was influenced by blues legends such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, and Mississippi Fred McDowell, as well as by classical composers such as Bach and Debussy.
Taylor released his debut album, Shameless Love, in 1981, which featured backing vocals by Griffith and a cover of his song by June Tabor. However, he did not record another album until 1995, due to personal and professional difficulties. His self-titled album, produced by former Fairport Convention member Iain Matthews, was a critical success and marked his comeback. He followed it with several more albums, such as Resurrect (1998), Scuffletown (2001), The Great Divide (2005), Hollywood Pocketknife (2007), and Studio 10 (2013). He also performed extensively in the US and Europe, playing in prestigious venues and festivals. He also taught songwriting workshops and mentored young artists.
Legacy and Influence
Eric Taylor was widely admired and respected by his peers and fans, who considered him one of the finest songwriters of his generation. His songs were covered by many artists, such as Griffith, Lovett, Earle, Peter Cooper, and others. He was also nominated for an Emmy Award for Musical Composition in 2016, for his songs written for the documentary Road Kid to Writer: The Tracks of Jim Tully.
Taylor died of liver disease in Austin, Texas, on March 9, 2020. He was survived by his wife, Susan, his daughter, Anna, and his son, Joshua. He was mourned by the folk music community, who paid tribute to his talent and his spirit. As Lovett said, “Eric Taylor was one of the finest songwriters I have ever had the pleasure to know. His songs are like movies, so vivid and clear that you feel you are living them as you listen.”
Eric Taylor cause of death was a loss for the music world, but his songs remain as a testament to his artistry and his humanity. He was a true Texas legend, who gave voice to the stories and the emotions of his time and place. He will be remembered and celebrated for his contribution to the Americana genre and to the culture of songwriting.