Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter James Taylor treated The National Press Club to his political thoughts as well as a few of his well-known songs at a luncheon on Dec. 7.
Flanked by media and National Press Club executives, Taylor told the ballroom audience of his involvement in President Barack Obama’s campaign, the need for election reform, and fielded questions from the audience on such topics as Taylor Swift.
National Press Club President Theresa Werner noted in her opening remarks that Taylor and his wife had done more than 50 interviews and 40 events in support of the president, “spreading the campaign message whenever they were called to do so.”
The luncheon cost $37 for general admission and $19 for members. Attendees not only were given a chance to hear Taylor’s insights and music, but were also provided a shrimp lunch and “Fire and Rain” cupcakes. The dessert, named after one of Taylor’s biggest hits, was decorated with fire and rain clouds.
As a member of the press covering the event, I was escorted to the lunch-free balcony—although I did snag one of the “fire” cupcake when the event ended.
It was delicious.
In her opening remarks Werner warned that applause for Taylor was not evidence of liberal media bias.
“If you hear applause in the audience, we would note there are members of the general public present, so it is not necessarily reflect a lack of journalistic objectivity,” she said.
Taylor outlined his longtime involvement in Democratic campaigns, starting with George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972 when he teamed up with Carole King and Barbra Streisand to stump for Richard Nixon’s doomed Democratic opponent.
Still, the Walking Man has found something of value in the two-party system.
“By ourselves liberals would probably steer us toward a sort of paralyzed nanny state in the European style, and Republicans left to their own would head toward oligarchy and inherited wealth and power,” Taylor said.
He also talked about his struggle to survive the George W. Bush administration.
“I really suffered. That was a tough time for me,” said Taylor, who has sold close to 100 million albums. “It made me very ambivalent about my country—that we would choose [the Bush administration], even if we didn't choose it.”
After that particular dark night of Taylor’s political soul, he found the Obama campaign inspiring. The Obama campaign's employees and volunteers, he said, are “fundamentally such good people.”
“It restored my faith in the country to meet these people who had committed to the campaigning,” Taylor said. “They were smart, these people who handled this campaign. They were committed to this mission and carried it out beautifully.”
Reinvigorated with patriotism, Taylor closed his set with a performance of “America the Beautiful” that was followed by lusty applause and hoots from the crowd.
The event was then opened up to questions from the audience who wondered, among other things, what the five-time Grammy Award winner thought about Taylor Swift.
“I do like Taylor Swift’s music,” Taylor said. “She's a remarkable sort of marketing phenomenon.”
Taylor, who raised close to $10 million for Obama’s reelection effort, also weighed in on the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, calling it “a disaster” and the “wrong direction to head in.”
After deriding the influence of money in politics, Taylor described the intimate access his fundraising for the Obama campaign offered him.
“I talked with Jim Messina, who was so instrumental in Obama’s reelection organization,” Taylor said. “He feels as though that we need a constitutional amendment to protect voters’ rights and also protect our elections from the pollution of this amazing amount of money.”
After the event, Taylor took time to sign autographs and take pictures with the long line of attendees.