James Taylor Event About Election Reform Turns Into Lovefest For Songwriter

Taylor spent several minutes talking election reform, but mostly played old favorites and responded to adoration from the audience.

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Politically active singer-songwriter James Taylor was invited to Washington's stoic National Press Club Friday to talk election reform, but the event quickly became more about Taylor's music than his politics.

With "fire" and "rain" cupcakes sitting on every table, a nod to one of Taylor's most beloved songs, the club moderator introduced the five-time Grammy Award winner by assuring the audience that if they heard clapping, it would be from the general public that was invited, not from journalists.

That assurance went out the window the moment Taylor took out his acoustic guitar to play his classic "Something In the Way She Moves." The song received vigorous applause from a number of prominent journalists in the room.

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"I'm a big fan," one female journalist gushed.

Singer James Taylor performs during the national Christmas tree lighting, Dec. 6, 2012.
Singer James Taylor performs during the national Christmas tree lighting, Dec. 6, 2012.

Taylor did speak briefly about election reform, suggesting Election Day should be a national holiday to ensure all voters can make it to the polls, and describing voter ID laws as "a solution without a problem." He called the 2010 Supreme Court decision on Citizens United a disaster.

But the singer spent most of his time on politics praising President Barack Obama or criticizing Republicans, whom he says could turn America into an "oligarchy of inherited wealth and power" if left unchecked.

Taylor has thrown his support behind almost every Democratic presidential candidate of the last two decades, and supported Massachusetts Senator-Elect Elizabeth Warren this election. He also played a number of major fundraisers for Obama, both in 2008 and 2012.

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"I think if you... feel really strongly about an issue or a candidate you get involved," he told the assembled audience. "It can feel like a betrayal to people to see something [musical] politicized, but that speaks to how low politics has sunk."

The question and answer session of the event began with a series of somber questions for Taylor, about topics including the fiscal cliff and the future of third parties. But the session soon veered closer to fandom, with questions for Taylor on his own personal favorite song ("Sweet Baby James"), how he listens to music these days (on CD and vinyl) and who Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain" is really about (he thinks Warren Beatty).

Taylor closed the event by playing the ballad "You Can Close Your Eyes," to a standing ovation.

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.