An uncle warned James Taylor at a young age that opiate addiction ran in his family, that if he ever touched the powerful sedative drugs "you can just kiss your entire life goodbye."
Taylor has told his heroin story many times. And as much as he regrets the pain his addiction caused himself and his loved ones, he feels worse about sharing it with others, which he did with one of his heroes: John Lennon.
He isn't sure if Lennon had ever experimented with opiates before, but Lennon's heroin habit is believed to have manifested around the time he would have met Taylor. The drugs are sometimes cited as a contributing factor in Lennon's disenchantment with The Beatles.
Taylor became acquainted with heroin soon after moving to New York City, and it would take him many years and many brushes with death to stave off the disease.
"One of the signs that you have an addiction problem is how well it works for you at the very beginning," he reflected. "It's the thing that makes you say: 'Damn, I like my life now.' That's when you know you shouldn't do it again."
Depression and anxiety also run in Taylor's family. He says heroin became part of his routine to "get normal." So when he flew to London for a nerve-wracking audition for The Beatles' record label in front of George Harrison and Paul McCartney, he was relieved to learn that in London opiates were cheap and easy to obtain.
After Harrison and McCartney offered a record deal to Taylor, he began working on his debut album at Abbey Road studios. The Beatles were recording the White Album at the same time, and Taylor would often show up for his sessions early to be a fly on the wall.
Taylor was released from his record contract after about a year and quickly checked into a rehab facility on Los Angeles. It would take him nearly 15 years to finally get off heroin.
The legendary songwriter is currently preparing his 20th studio album, American Standard, due out February 28.
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