A track from his self-titled debut album, James Taylor wrote and recorded this song in 1968 while staying in an apartment in London. In this song, James sings about longing to return to North Carolina, the place he and his siblings called home in their childhood days. He says it's about "that feeling of being called away to another place."
There has been a great deal of speculation as to the identity of Karin, the woman he sings about in the line, "Karin, she's a silver sun." Until 2009, Taylor would not reveal her identity, leading listeners to create their own theories: Some felt that Karin was a poetic name for Carolina, others believed that Karin was a beautiful young woman that James met while on a trip to Spain, and many have said that this song is about drugs, since at the time it was written, Taylor was trying so hard to kick a serious addiction to heroin.
Taylor cleared this up in a concert screened by BBC Television in March 2009, when he revealed the identity of the Karin alluded to in this song.
The album was recorded in London the same time the Beatles recorded their White Album and was released on their Apple label; at some point Taylor skipped across to the island of Formentera, where he met Karin. This appears to have been a fleeting relationship, or perhaps simply a meeting, but he never saw her again. She was Scandinavian, about twenty-four years old, and had shoulder length blonde hair, reminiscent of Annalena Nordstrom in the Wishbone Ash song "Blowin' Free." Her ghost was still haunting him 35 years later, and with the advent of the Internet he decided better late than never, located a police artist and commissioned him to draw a sketch of what she would look like after all this time. The artist e-mailed him a most unflattering sketch the next day as a joke. Though Taylor was pleased with the real sketch, he said that try as he may he couldn't stop thinking of her now as a criminal.
Sadly, unlike Martin Turner, Taylor appears not to have been reunited with his lady friend, whatever their relationship.
Suggestion credit: Alexander Baron - London, England
This was Taylor's first single. He was signed to The Beatles' Record Company, Apple Records, after pitching his demo to Peter Asher, who was good friends with the band and worked for Apple. "Carolina in My Mind" wasn't issued as a single until a few months after the album was released, and by that time he was tending a heroin habit in a psychiatric facility, which left him unable to do touring or promotion. The song stalled at #118 US, and soon Taylor was dropped from Apple.
His second album was released in 1970 on his new label, Warner Bros., and it did very well thanks to the hit single "Fire And Rain." This prompted Apple to re-release "Carolina in My Mind" that year, and this time it reached #67 US.
In the line, "With a holy host of others standing 'round me, still I'm on the dark side of the moon," the "holy host of others" is The Beatles; Taylor was thrilled to be labelmates with his idols, but still missed his home in North Carolina. (This line preceded the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon, which was released in 1973.)
Paul McCartney played bass and sang harmonies on this song. Taylor said that George Harrison also sang a part, but was not credited on the album.
Some subtle strings can be heard on this track. In a Songfacts interview with Taylor's producer, Peter Asher, he said: "In the case of the Apple James Taylor album, I did specifically think about some kind of orchestrations because I really wanted to establish the fact that he was not just another long-haired folkie with an acoustic guitar. I wanted people to take him seriously as a composer."
When Taylor left Apple, Asher became his manager as well as his producer. His next album, Sweet Baby James," had a lot less orchestration.
Taylor recorded a new version of this song for his 1976 Greatest Hits album. This version is longer, running 3:57 (the original is 3:04) and with fiddle by Byron Berline, harmonium by Andrew Gold, and steel guitar by Dan Dugmore. Members of Taylor's band also played on this rendition: Lee Sklar (bass) and Russ Kunkel (drums).
00spy from CalgaryTaylor played and talked about this song (May 12, 2015) on the Howard Stern show. He did write the song in Spain while on a 1 week break from the recording studio in London. His good friend, Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar knew Peter Asher and put James in touch (with Asher) which led to James signing with Apple (the first act signed to Apple). The Beatles were recording the White album and James used to record with Peter Asher during the Beatles extra time. While the Beatles were off he ran down to Spain for a week trip and on an island he wrote Carolina in My Mind. He was homesick simply homesick. McCartney and Harrison played and sang on the original Apple version of the song. The line "Now with a holy host of others standing round me, still I'm on the dark side of the moon" is about James playing for the Beatles while in studio. He also mentioned that Karen (Karin) tried to see him at a concert many years ago but she couldn't get past security and he has never heard from her again.
Max from AustraliaOr maybe it's just about being homesick in front of some bird you just met and getting overly emotional about it. :p
Max from AustraliaThis song is about feeling depressed and like the shadow of death is upon you. In the face of this shade, he turns to thoughts of a place and a time he once loved being as an 'old friend' hits him from behind. The sunshine and the moonshine brightens up his thoughts, however now he's thinking of the time and place in Carolina as his own personal heaven to which he's headed. The ominous sense of impending death has changed to beauty, bringing tears to his eyes, but nevertheless he's apologetically departing and to his beloved Carolina.
It's all in the lyrics.
Brandon from GermanyI've been researching this topic about "Karin" (not Karen) for quite some time now. This is what I've found out so far.
In 1968 James was recording his first LP in Trident Studios, London where the Beatles were also recording their white Double Album. He took a break that Summer and went over to the Balearic isle of Ibiza. At that time many artists and musicians were going there; it was a Hippie paradise. However, because it was very crowded there he decided to take the ferry over to the smaller island called Formentera. I'm not entirely sure how long he stayed there but it was a relatively short stay, possibly just the weekend. During that time he met a Swedish girl called Karin, about 22 years old at the time.
Now, according to his CD / DVD "One Man Band" where he explains just before singing Carolina In My Mind, he projected a picture on the back drop behind him, showing a place in Formentera, which I identified as Cala Saona on the west side of the island. And a few years ago, I took a photo of the same place. I can only presume Karin and James slept out on the beach there because there wasn't much in the way of accommodation those days, and being Summer, a beach would have been a perfect place for young Hippies to be.
So, as he mentioned in a concert recently in March 2015, the song probably started in Formentera and it was later finished when he retuned to London to complete his very first LP entitled simply "James Taylor" on the Beatles Apple label. It was released in 1969 and produced by Paul McCartney & Peter Asher. Although he did try to find Karin some 30+ years later, he never found her.
My question is: Although James was unknown in 1968, by 1969 "Carolina" had been released and he shot to international fame. By 1970, Fire & Rain was released, followed by You've Got a Friend! These songs were all top International hits!!!
Surely, Karin MUST know who James Taylor is by now??? She would be in her mid-sixties today. So, where is she?
Any info on this would be very welcomed indeed! Thanks...
Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 17th 1971, James Taylor performed "Carolina In My Mind" on the ABC-TV program 'The Johnny Cash Show'... Three months earlier on November 8th, 1970 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #99; it peaked at #67 and spent 7 weeks on the Top 100... The week it entered the Top 100 his version "Fire and Rain" was in its last of three weeks at being in the #3 position on the chart... And a week before his "Carolina In My Mind" entered the Top 100, Crystal Mansion's covered version entered the chart at position #84 (their version reached #73)... Mr. Taylor will celebrate his 66th birthday next month on March 12th (2014).
Martina from Madrid, SpainLast night at a concert that took place in Madrid James Taylor told that this song was written at Formentera, one of the Balearic Islands (very close to Ibiza), in 1968.
Barry from New York, NyActually the 7/18/77 venue was the Hollywood Palladium.
Barry from New York, NyAccording to James Taylor's introduction to the song at a concert at Universal Amphitheater in LA on 7/18/77 the song was written in Spain. He and the girl Karin went over to an island (possibly called Habitha), and they got stranded there after the ferry left without them. They had to spend the night in the streets. While sitting in a sidewalk cafe that hadn't opened up yet, JT got an attack of homesickness, and inspired to write the song.
Karen from Manchester, NhI love this song, first of all, it's the only song that has ANY variation of the name "Karen" in it; second, I have always preferred silver to gold, to the line "Karen, she's a silver sun" resonates with me; and third, my husband (of 23 years) is from South Carolina.
John from Cincinnati, OhOn the original version, all of the background vocals are by Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon), James Taylor's producer at the time (and later Linda Ronstadt's).
Edward Pearce from Ashford, Kent, EnglandMelanie does a lovely version on her 1970 Candles in the Rain album.
Johan from Malmö, SwedenThe name of the woman in the song is not "Karen". It is "Karin". Karin was a Swedish girl that - correctly - met Taylor in Spain, in the sixties. This was before he returned to the States and became famous. He wrote the song, singing down into a well (in order to get some reverb on his voice), and he asked her "Do you want to be in my song?" "Yes" she replied.
I know, because Karin is my mother.
Todd from Fayetteville, NcThe song was written in Chapel Hill in the woods near was it now the Dean E. Smith center. JT's father was dean of the med school at Carolina for a very long time. They named the student health center after him. I heard him sing it solo at the kickoff of the UNC 200 year anv of the founding of the university. He said that he wrote this song "just steps away from here. Of course it was all woods then" I grew up on JT and my mother was a HUGE fan. I gave her tickets to see him at Carowinds in1987. She got his autograph.
Stu from Suffern, NyAmelia is right: The title of this song is "Carolina IN My Mind" in accordance with its lyrics. A check of JT's (1st) Greatest Hits album (vinyl) confirms it.
Amelia from Chaple Hill, NcI think I know Karen. she works with my Aunt. Any way she claims to be that Karen. By the way, I think it is Carolina IN my mind, not ON my mind. PS I love this song. I live in North Carolina.
Frank from Harrisonburg, VaI travel frequently by air to/from Africa to help develop public health systems. I begin every airline trip with this song. Once I am settled into my seat (coach class BTW), I "kick back" and listen to "Carolina on My Mind" a couple of times. It has a great soothing and calming effect. Thanks James!
Brad from Kingsport, TnLast year at a concert at the Ryman auditorium in Nashville, James actually talked at length about "Karen". He said he was on (i believe) an island off spain and met her (she wasn't spanish though.. i believe he said she was from sweden).. He spent a few days with her and had a great time, but then had to go and was very sad to leave her. He missed his ferry to the mainland and wrote this song that evening before catching a boat the next day. He was thinking about this beautiful woman and the time he'd spent with her and then began feeling nostalgic about his home and younger years in north carolina.
Fern from Hampshire, EnglandThis is one of my favourite songs. I listen to it as a song about escaping...I'm a bit of a daydreamer, and I like to imagine someone going through life listening to people and pretending he's there when really he's thousands of miles away in his head. Beautiful, beautiful song.