WASHINGTON — James Taylor took his modest one-man campaign for electoral reform to Washington’s press corps Friday, but the veteran singer-songwriter said he has no plans to run for office himself.
“With my personal history, that would be a massacre,” quipped the 64-year-old composer of such 1970s hits as “Fire and Rain,” “Sweet Baby James” and “Carolina on My Mind,” at a National Press Club luncheon.
“Fun [for journalists] to cover, though.”
Taylor featured prominently during Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, playing the Democratic National Convention and touring the nation to help raise money to keep the president in the White House for another four years.
This week saw him in Washington for the gala lighting of the National Christmas Tree outside the White House.
Sporting a cap and wire rim glasses, the North Carolina native described himself as a “yellow-dog Democrat and unapologetic liberal,” in between acoustic sets that had his largely middle-aged audience swooning.
His affection for Obama was unabashed.
“What a wonderful president,” he said, as the few hundred guests polished off their main course of shrimp-and-grits and tucked into fire and rain-decorated frosted cupcakes for dessert.
Of the enduring partisan logjam on Capitol Hill, Taylor said: “We really do need a strong Republican party and a good dialogue between left and right — but paralysis seems to be the order of the day.”
Taylor pulled out his guitar to play two of the very few political songs in his otherwise autobiographical repetoire: “Line ‘Em Up,” about Richard Nixon’s resignation over Watergate, and “Slap Leather,” with its “Big Mac Falafel” reference to American simplification of the Arab world.
Then he turned to the political issue that most concerns him: electoral reform.
“To me, the vote is sacred,” he said, but elections are being undermined by “the pollution of this enormous amount of money” — the hundreds of millions of dollars raised and spent by rival political parties and vested interests.
In order to boost turnout, he said, there should be a national election holiday, and polling stations should be open for an entire week.
“We can at least try to get people to the polls in greater numbers,” he said.
Taylor also fielded questions about his musical career, which soared in the 1970s, then sagged in the 1980s before a slow but steady comeback that now finds him playing alongside the likes of country-pop diva Taylor Swift, 22.
The secret of his longevity? The loyalty of his fans, he said, plus the mellow nature of his compositions: “It’s the kind of music that doesn’t tear you up to sing it.”
What does he make of contemporary pop music? “I guess I don’t like it a whole lot,” he replied. “I don’t mean to blanket-condemn it, but I think it’s passed me by.”
“I’ve spent my life,” Taylor added, “being myself for a living.”