Which Part Of His Her Music Belongs To The Singer-Songwriter What Makes James Taylor’s "Carolina In My Mind" a Great Song?

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What Makes James Taylor’s "Carolina In My Mind" a Great Song?

From a songwriter’s perspective, there are few songs better than James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind.” What is it about this song that makes it such a complete songwriting package? The answer: the melody, mood, lyrics and chorus of the song. In other words, everything!

“Carolina In My Mind” first appeared on James Taylor’s 1968 debut album, James Taylor, released on (The Beatles’) Apple Records. The song was written in various locations including London and the Mediterranean islands of Formentera and Ibiza. James Taylor has often noted that the inspiration behind the song was homesickness. Although Taylor went on to what was to become an amazing career, the feelings of missing his family, dog and home state (Carolina) inspired the song. As Adele recently admitted when she accepted (several) Grammy Awards, songs that come from deep emotions are usually the most genuine and in turn become the artist’s “best” work.

So as a songwriter James hit the ground running with the theme of “Carolina”: true longing. (Who hasn’t been homesick at one time or another?) And while great writers can conjure up images to convey homesickness, the fact that James Taylor experienced those feelings gives the song its credibility, not to mention its overall feel and sound. This mindset is conveyed in the song’s chorus: “In my mind I’m going to Carolina. You can’t see the sun. You can’t just feel the moon. Isn’t it just like my friend to hit me from behind. Yes, I’m going to Carolina in my mind.”

By placing the chorus right at the beginning of the song, James immediately pulls the listener into a “comfortable” place. So when the same chorus comes again a little later in the song, the listener feels like they already “know” the song. This is the key to strong songwriting. The song must grab the listener’s attention (in this case with a very strong chorus that opens the song) so that the rest of the song will pass the initial barriers that may exist between the writer and the audience.

Of course, the strength of the song’s melody is another key to its greatness. The verses are sung in a conversational style with tight melody lines and are a perfect compliment to the chorus. The closing words of the song leading into the last chorus complete this package:

“Dark and quiet last night late, I think I might have heard the highway call. Geese in flight and dogs biting. Signs that might be signs say I’m going, going, I’m going to Carolina in my head. With a holy line of others standing “around me. I’m on the dark side of the moon after all. And it seemed like it went on forever. You must forgive me if I get up and go to Carolina in my mind.

With the perfect combination of melody, mood, lyrics and chorus, James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind” is an example of a “great” song.

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