James Taylor: My Life in 15 Songs

Addiction, absent fathers and survival: The surprisingly dark stories behind some folk-rock classics

"Rainy Day Man" (1967)

In 1966, I was living at the Albert Hotel in New York with my best friend, Zach Wiesner, who wrote this song with me. We had one of two rooms at the hotel that hadn't been destroyed in a fire, so it was pretty cheap.

The "rainy-day man" was a dope connection. I had taken my first opiate in 1966. Joel "Bishop" O'Brien, the drummer in the Flying Machine, was an addict. I spent a lot of time at his apartment, so it was just a matter of time before I tried heroin. I was pretty much born to shoot dope — it was the key to my lock, so I really was gone for the next 20 years.