Would “You’ve Got A Friend” still win Grammys for James Taylor and Carole King if the voting was held in 2021?
today at 6:11 am
In the early 1970s, James Taylor was one of the biggest recording artists in the world. He was the first non-British artist signed to the Beatles’ Apple label. He had a major breakthrough with his second album “Sweet Baby James.” In 1971, his biggest single, “You’ve Got A Friend” reached number one on the charts. It became a Gold record selling more than one million copies. The Carole King written tune won Taylor his first Grammy Award for Best Vocal Pop Performance, Male. It also won the “Song of the Year” for King.
It’s now fifty years since its release. While still a beloved song, if we voted today, would “You’ve Got A Friend” still win those awards?
Let’s start with Taylor’s award for Best Pop Performance. The other nominees were “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, “I Am…I Said” by Neil Diamond, “If You Could Read My Mind”, by Gordon Lightfoot and “It’s Impossible” by Perry Como (really!! no joke). You can make a case for three of those four songs, sorry Perry, and you really wouldn’t go wrong with any of those choices. Depending on the day and my mood, I could easily vote for the Lightfoot or Withers songs but I have no issue with the Taylor awarded winning performance.
The “Song of the Year” award is a different story. Carole King won the Grammy because it’s given to the songwriter. The other nominees were “Help Me Make It Through the Night” by Kris Kristofferson, “Me and Bobby McGee” written by Kristofferson and sung by Janis Joplin, “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden” written by Joe South and sung by Lynn Anderson and once again Perry Como’s “It’s Impossible.” When compared to this group of songs, “You’ve Got A Friend” is a worthy winner.
But in both categories, there are other songs and performances that weren’t nominated that are more worthy.
Why not “Stairway to Heaven”? How about “Won’t Get Fooled Again?” Where’s Joni Mitchell’s “River?” No “What’s Going On” or “Mercy Mercy Me” by Marvin Gaye? And just to pile on, “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart, “Brown Sugar’ by the Rolling Stones and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Even King’s own “It’s Too Late” is a better contender.
I guess the issue is more with the Grammys themselves than with either Taylor or King. It’s well known that they came late to the game when it came to the genre of rock music. That’s why we saw Perry Como getting nominations instead of Led Zeppelin or The Who. It took them some time to get there because the next six “Song of the Year” awards were performed by Roberta Flack (twice), Barbra Streisand (twice), Judy Collins and Barry Manilow.
So to answer the question in the title, if we’re voting today the answer is no. No offense to James, Carole or their song but there are better songs and performances….many better.
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