James Taylor has just released the audio memoir Break Shot, which looks back on his progressive upbringing, troubled childhood and introduction to heroin.

Taylor is also promoting a new album, American Standard, his 19th overall. He spoke to The Guardian about his rise to fame in the late 1960s, which saw him consorting with The Beatles in London and then the likes of Jackson Browne, Crosby, Still & Nash and Carole King in Los Angeles.

Listen: James Taylor – Something in the Way She Moves

Taylor travelled to London to audition for The Beatles’ new record label Apple. He was the first US artist signed to Apple and stayed in the UK capital to record his debut album James Taylor. He’d developed a heroin habit before leaving the States and found the drug readily available in London.

“I picked up pretty soon after I got [there],” he told The Guardian. There’s speculation that John Lennon’s heroin use is one of the factors that brought about the Beatles’ downfall. And he was apparently turned onto junk by Taylor. “I was a bad influence to be around the Beatles at that time,” said Taylor. “Because I gave John opiates.”

Taylor left London for Laurel Canyon, which is where he met and fell in love with Joni Mitchell. This was around the time of his breakout album Sweet Baby James. Mitchell was writing her classic album Blue, which remains a favourite for Taylor. However, he struggles with Mitchell’s 1972 breakup song ‘Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire’. “I’m not able to listen to it,” he said.

Joni Mitchell – Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire

Mitchell has been severely ill in recent years, but Taylor is still in touch with the trailblazing musician. He performed ‘River’ at Joni’s 75th birthday party in November 2018, and he hinted at even more exciting things to come.

“She’s recovering, she’s coming back,” Taylor said to The Guardian. “I think she’s coming back musically … It’s amazing to see her come back to the surface.”

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Listen: James Taylor – River (Joni Mitchell cover)