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James Taylor's "Fire and Rain": The Meaning

Updated on April 30, 2016
angela_michelle profile image

Angela first knew of Jesus as a child, but did not walk with him until she was adult. She now hopes to share the good news ith the world.

James Taylor Singing

James Taylor performing at Tanglewood
James Taylor performing at Tanglewood | Source

I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Rain Lyrics

Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone.
Susanne, the plans they made put an end to you.
I walked out this morning, and I wrote down this song,
I just can't remember who to send it to.

I've seen fire and I've seen rain;
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end;
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
But I always thought that I'd see you again.

Won't you look down upon me, Jesus;
You've got to help me make a stand,;
You've just got to see me through another day.
My body's aching and my time is at hand,
And I won't make it any other way.

Oh, I've seen fire, and I've seen rain;
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end;
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
But I always thought that I'd see you again.

Been walking my mind to an easy time, my back turned towards the sun;
Lord knows, when the cold wind blows it'll turn your head around.
Well, there's hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come;
Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.

Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain;
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end;
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
But I always thought that I'd see you, baby, one more time again, now.

Thought I'd see you one more time again;
There's just a few things coming my way this time around, now;
Thought I'd see you, thought I'd see you fire and rain, now.

Young James Taylor

Source

James Taylor Lyrics Explained

This is one of my favorite songs, and once I heard the true story behind it, I loved it even more. James Taylor was not only the singer, but also the writer of this song. He became a pop star at 22 when this song became a hit. Taylor stated that he wrote this song three different times throughout 1968. His writing began while he was auditioning in London for The Beatles' Apple Records. Then wrote more of it while James stayed in Manhattan Hospital. Although it was not finished until he was at the Austin Riggs Center, where he was staying for drug rehabilitation. In 1972 Taylor stated:

"Fire and Rain" has three verses. The first verse is about my reactions to the death of a friend. The second verse is about my arrival in this country with a monkey on my back, and there Jesus is an expression of my desperation in trying to get through the time when my body was aching and the time was at hand when I had to do it... And the third verse of that song refers to my recuperation in Austin Riggs which lasted about five months.

Although he wrote this at only 20 years old, it touches people of all ages, and still relevant forty plus years later.

James Taylor Photo

James Taylor photograph taken in 1999.
James Taylor photograph taken in 1999. | Source

First Verse

Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
I just can't remember who to send it to
Susanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song

When he refers to Susanne, he is actually referring to Susanne Schnerr. Taylor states he used to get high with her and knew her quite well. He met her in New York during 1967, and hung out with her quite often when he was part of a group called The Flying Machine. The Flying Machine was the group where he began to become successful as a musician and writer.

Susanne, or who Taylor affectionately refers to as Suzie, committed suicide. He was living in London with mutual friends. Since his career began lifting off and his fame grew, his friends waited until later to give him the news, since they knew he was so excited about his upcoming record deal. He actually didn't find out about her suicide until six months later.

He also states in one interview that he always felt bad about the line, "The plans they made put an end to you," because people have made assumptions to whom "they" are. He intended 'they' to be the Fates. His greatest fear was that her parents thought he blamed them. He did not.

Second Verse

Won't you look down upon me, Jesus
You've got to help me make a stand
You've just got to see me through another day
My body's aching and my time is at hand
And I won't make it any other way

This verse was written in 1968 after he stayed in a mental hospital. He was battling a heroin addiction. This was a plea to Jesus, as in Jesus Christ, to help him 'make a stand' against his drug addiction. This really portrays how much of a hold the addiction had on him, especially when he belts out, "I won't make it any other way."

Although it would be nice to say that in 1968 he finally kicked the habit, he did not kick the habit until much later. Fortunately, unlike many like him, he was finally able to make a stand against his addiction in 1986, when he became sober. He has been sober ever since, but still feels that he is a recovering addict.

James Taylor Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
James Taylor and his wife Kim Smedvig at the Metropolitan Opera opening in 2008. James Taylor at the 120th Anniversary of Carnegie Hall. James Taylor on stage performing at Tanglewood.
James Taylor and his wife Kim Smedvig at the Metropolitan Opera opening in 2008.
James Taylor and his wife Kim Smedvig at the Metropolitan Opera opening in 2008. | Source
James Taylor at the 120th Anniversary of Carnegie Hall.
James Taylor at the 120th Anniversary of Carnegie Hall. | Source
James Taylor on stage performing at Tanglewood.
James Taylor on stage performing at Tanglewood. | Source

Third Verse

Has been walking my mind to an easy time my back turned towards the sun
Lord knows when the cold wind blows it'll turn your head around
Well, there's hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things
To come
Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground

Earlier, during his senior year in high school, he had been treated at a hospital for depression. He and a friend, Danny Kortchmar, began a band called the Flying Machine. It was a blessing in disguise when the band failed just a few months after it started, and he began his solo career. The last line is referring to this band and his earlier attempts at finding success as a writer.

This remains and probably always will be one of my favorite songs. It touches me on a deep level. Although I've never experienced depression or drug addiction, I still know how it feels to be on the bottom, hoping for a moment to arise. Life is like a roller coaster, many ups and downs, scary at times, exhilarating, and sometimes just plain boring.

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz

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    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 12 days ago from New Jersey

      He has such a distinctive voice, you can always tell it's him when he helps out a friend or even plays an instrument. He plays the banjo part on Neil Young's Old Man. I wish he stayed with Carly Simon, she loved him so much.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 2 years ago from TEXAS

      I found your hub from one of the "Related Hubs" on another hub I was visiting. Glad I did!

      What a lovely hub! I adore James Taylor and have since I first heard him in the 60s when my son in high school was following his work. Thank you for bringing out this 'history' of one of his most beloved songs. It gets my votes!

      I tried for a good while to play his songs on piano. They're not very adaptable to it. One time, though, it just came to me and I was able to do a fairly good job of it. Very satisfying.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 2 years ago from TEXAS

      What a lovely hub! I adore James Taylor and have since I first heard him in the 60s. Thank you for bringing out this 'history' of one of his most beloved songs. It gets my votes!

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 4 years ago from United States

      He really is quite the genius, he is one of my all time favorite singers.

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi A_M, thank you for that explanation. I had no idea he wrote the verses so far apart. I just finished a song I started many years ago, so I do understand how that happens. I read once that when he heard people say that his songs all sounded the same that he was surprised. He said he works to vary his songs and structure of the music but that he just has a narrow lens they all come out of and so it just sounds like that.

      I agree with him, his songs are not as easy to play as you might think if you actually play them as he does. That's a bit of genius there. =:)

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 4 years ago from United States

      It truly is a sad story. My heart feels heavy every time I hear those words.

    • Eric Calderwood profile image

      Eric Calderwood 4 years ago from USA

      I remember listening to this song as a young child. I always thought the whole song was about "Susan" and the line "the plans they made put an end to you" referred to some conspiracy in which she was murdered. Now I know the real story. Thanks for a great hub.

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Your welcome. James Taylor is one of my all-time favorite singers. I could listen to him sing all day long. I think he is one of the few celebrities that I would lose all verbal functioning around! I'd just stand there in awe!

    • heart4theword profile image

      heart4theword 6 years ago from hub

      Have to say I've always liked the song, yet never read or new anything about the singer...or the story behind the song. Thanks for sharing!

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      He is one of the few musicians who has remained a powerful musical force for more than half of their lives!

    • TomTipton profile image

      TomTipton 6 years ago from Hollywood, CA

      Thanks for the Hub angela_michelle.

      When lyrics, melody, and emotion collide, you have a classic - something that never grows old. James is in (what I would call) the 3rd act of his career now but he still sings and plays with the same fervor of his early days. I still love to hear him sing

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      SteveoMc, the reason behind the story really moved me the first time I heard it. I wish my computer had speakers, otherwise I would add a video. I just can't tell if the video I would add would be quality or not.

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      I love this song and I was moved by the explanation. Thank you so much. I want to hear it right now. Also, rated up and awesome. Wonderful hub.

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks so much Minnetonka twin for rating it up. Yeah, he seems to be one of those artists that lives a good life not just a good singer. He doesn't seem to try to hide who he is either.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 6 years ago from Minnesota

      I rated this hub Up, Awesome and Beautiful as it is very inspiring. I have always had a Big place in my heart for James Taylor. I followed him and his life as he struggled with demons and followed hin as a great and incredible artist. I always thought it was cool that someone this famous went on children's shows like Sesame Street. He definitely knows how blessed he is to be living a clean and sober life now and it shows in how he gives back. Thanks for a really enlightening hub.

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      ainehannah, honestly, I am a huge James Taylor song, there is just a few songs of his I don't adore.

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      mhuze, I love all the great memories that we have in our lives that are brought out by a certain song.

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Coffeesnob, one thing I find very interesting is that many performers will say they have a normal personality, then they have a stage personality. James Taylor actually stated in an interview that he is himself in his music. He acted as if that was not very creative and he lacked imagination, but personally I think it's kind of refreshing.

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      FCE tier, oh, I should see if I can netflix it, I think I would enjoy it.

    • ainehannah profile image

      Aine O'Connor 6 years ago from Dublin

      Hi Angela Michelle, great to know the background to a classic such as this. Another album of his that featured Carol King's Up On The Roof and his own Handyman from 1979 was a big, big favourite of mine back in the day. Like mhuze, thanks for bringing back a good memory :0)

    • mhuze profile image

      mhuze 6 years ago from USA

      Listened to this album on my Mom's old console stereo. Thanks for bringing back a good memory.

    • profile image

      coffeesnob 6 years ago

      Nice hub...I used to be all about James Taylor..always liked his music.. Isn't it a neat thing to be able to get a glimpse at what is behind the scenes in the mind of the artist. Most who write pour out experiences in some form..

    • FCEtier profile image

      Chip 6 years ago from Cold Mountain

      I have the DVD of JT and Carole King -- great!

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Valerie, I love when you can find a song that just really hits home, and helps you get through some of the low moments. :)

    • valeriebelew profile image

      valeriebelew 6 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      Loved this angela_michelle. I've experienced both depression and a drug problem, and I'm here to say the lyrics hit home. Wonderful hub. Voting up and awesome. (:v

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Bayoulady, you should definitely do one. :) I was thinking about writing about Frederick Doublass, the ex-slave. Amazing story, it really opens your eyes to the terribleness of slavery.

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Tonymac, I never knew anyone had ever redone the song. I wish the speakers on my computer were working otherwise I would youtube it.

    • bayoulady profile image

      bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      James Taylor's smooth voice, oh my. Haven't thought of him for a long time.i am enjoying all of the biographies I've been seeing lately on the hubs, think I might do one myself.Rate up!

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Thank you so much Healing Touch I appreciate that!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      This is a very informative Hub about a song I have loved for many years. Interestingly I first heard the Joan Baez version and loved it, only lagter heard the a Taylor version and have been a fan ever since.

      The song always intrigued me so I'm grateful for the background story.

      Thanks for sharing this.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks Aunt Barb!

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Mentalist Acer, well, I used to have the Muppet's Christmas on 8-track, I hope you still have your 8-track! That would be really awesome. Not quite as cool as having a record, but still pretty neat.

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Dave Matthews, that is exactly how I feel about knowing the background of it.

    • angela_michelle profile image
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      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Samsons, I'm also a huge fan! Obviously!

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Fred Allen, I may just have to find one. I am surprised I didn't think about it. Of course the sound on my computer is currently broken, so I haven't been putting videos on, because I don't know what ones are quality or not.

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Dahoglund, I think it was finding out this many years ago, is what caused me to become a big James Taylor fan.

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      DiamondRN, It surprises me how few call on Jesus in my generation. Generations past, at the Academy Awards they would thank God, you don't hear that quite as much as you used to.

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Ecoggins, I have a proposition for you. If you make a youtube video doing your James Taylor impression, I'll put it up on ths hub! LOL> I'd love to see it. :)

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      Pamela, I think me and you have a lot in common. We seem to like much the same things. :)

    • angela_michelle profile image
      Author

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      zzron, Thanks. I actually would agree with you, but there is something hypnotizing with James Taylor's voice. I absolutely love to hear him sing. Typically I prefer things more upbeat.

    • Healing Touch profile image

      Laura Arne 6 years ago from Minnetonka, MN

      I am a total James Taylor Fan. You had me at Hello. I tweeted this one. Great hub.

      Healing touch

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Kay Badder 6 years ago from USA

      Hmm. I always liked this song, but I never noticed he called on Jesus either. I enjoyed reading this hub. Thanks Angela.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      I used to have him on 8-track and cassette,I wore him outLol;)

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      Angela_Michelle: I've always enjoyed this song from James Taylor, and now knowing more about him I can have a deeper appreciation for the song still.

      Brother Dave.

    • samsons1 profile image

      Sam 6 years ago from Tennessee

      beautiful, I always liked James Taylor.

    • fred allen profile image

      fred allen 6 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

      Wish you could have attached a performance of the song. Love the hub! I love good peotry. It displays the soul of the poet. It goes deeper than the words and the images they conjure. Most just scratch the surface of what is really being revealed. You dig deep. I like that.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I've never really listened much to Taylor but this is an interesting story about him.

    • DiamondRN profile image

      Bob Diamond RPh 6 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      I had never listened to all of the words before. I wasn't aware of his calling on Jesus. More people who are in trouble should do the same. Thanks.

    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 6 years ago from Corona, California

      My favorite singer impression is to do James Taylor. I love his songs. Thanks for sharing this hub.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      I enjoyed this hub and like that particular song as well as, many others of James Taylor.

    • zzron profile image

      zzron 6 years ago from Houston, TX.

      This was nice, I like a couple of his songs but I mostly prefer faster classic rock.

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