Timeless standards come alive in Noel Cabangon’s tribute to James Taylor

By: - Business Features Editor
/ 12:20 AM June 29, 2017

James Taylor

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” “And since we’re only here for a while, might as well show some style.” “Try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.”

Singer-songwriter Noel Cabangon has lost count of the number of times he has sung these words of wisdom from James Taylor’s 40-year-old “Secret O’ Life,” and yet he has not grown weary of it.


Far from it.

For Cabangon, who makes no secret of the heavy influence that Taylor has on his own music and style, the lyrics and melody of “Secret O’ Life” sound as fresh and relevant today as they were when the
song was first released in 1977, as part of Taylor’s landmark “JT” album.


“I always introduce that song as some words of wisdom from James Taylor, from someone who has been living a full life. In a world that is as stressful as it is demanding, we really should learn how to take it easy,” Cabangon tells the Inquirer. “The line, ‘Try not to try too hard, it is just a lovely ride,’ is a reminder to enjoy life. Like a friend of mine always says, carpe diem (Latin for ‘seize the day’).”

Noel Cabangon

Cabangon will perform the timeless tune along with Taylor’s other familiar hits during his tribute show to the award-winning American singer today at RJ Bistro, with special guest Richard Merk, who used to be a folk singer before turning to jazz.

No folk singer worth his salt can do without mastering Taylor’s songs, Cabangon says. “His music cuts across generations because they’re easy to listen to and grounded in reality. They tell stories, and he narrates them well. His songs are timeless and brilliantly written, and only get better with time,” says the 53-year-old.

Cabangon, who started singing professionally at 18, shares that Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” was the first song that he mastered, initially using a borrowed Lumanog classical guitar before turning to his Yamaha, which was bought by his parents using money from a mortgaged piece of land.

He has come a long way from the days when he was jamming at Solibao restaurant in Baguio before turning professional. He has since expanded his repertoire to include the songs of other folk greats,
but Taylor will always be on top of his sources of inspiration. And “Secret O’ Life” will always be a guide.

For Cabangon, it has indeed been a lovely ride.

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