Jeremy Taylor (singer)
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2007)|
|Born||24 November 1937|
|Origin||Newbury, Berkshire, England|
|Occupation(s)||Singer-songwriter, Humorist, Poet, Political commentator|
|Associated acts||Spike Milligan, Alun Davies|
Jeremy Taylor (born 24 November 1937 in Newbury, Berkshire) is a retired English folk singer and songwriter who has spent much of his life in South Africa, originally as a teacher of English at St. Martin's School (Rosettenville) in southern Johannesburg, but since 1994 has lived in Wales and in France. Part stand-up comedian, part singer, Taylor has used his talents to confront the idiosyncrasies as well as societal woes in life. Much of Taylor's unique songwriting and the success he has enjoyed with many of his songs originate with his live performances. His various accents, facial expressions, mannerisms, and dramatic pauses at critical points in his songs, with a particular chosen word or two, often are arguably what makes his humorous songs so popular. Taylor has the distinction of having performed songs that not only question social problems in society, but was a pioneer in the area of finding ways to do so while allowing the audience to laugh at themselves, especially in an era where, in the late 1950s and early 1960s McCarthyism menaced free thinkers in the United States, while at home in South Africa, both Taylor, and his songs, often political, were banned in South Africa by the South African Broadcasting Corporation and the Government, during the apartheid era.
Taylor began performing in clubs and coffee-bars such as the Cul de Sac in Hillbrow, Johannesburg in the 1960s and achieved massive success with the comedic song "Ballad of the Southern Suburbs [of Johannesburg]", known also as "Ag Pleez Deddy" in 1961. The song was a surprise hit. In a performance in Chicago, he explained that while teaching South African children English, he was "enchanted" by their patois, and their lust for many Western European luxuries, like Pepsi Cola, and Canada Dry beverages, Eskimo Pie, popcorn, chewing gum, and flicks like "Tarzan", and other products. Taylor mimicked their accent in the song, which features a child begging his father to take him to different places and buy these treats. It was frowned upon by parents and the Government, because the song mixed English and Afrikaans - a practice the Nationalist government disapproved of, feeling that all languages should be kept "pure"; just one reason that Taylor was soon required to leave the Country while under apartheid political rule. However, the children loved it, and so it became a massive hit song, selling more than any Elvis Presley single in South Africa. Also in the early sixties he contributed to the successful musical show Wait a Minim!, performing several of his own compositions.
After returning to Britain to perform in the West End musical revue Wait a Minim, which opened in 1964, he joined the British folk music circuit and regularly appeared on British television. He had his own BBC2 series of six folk-style shows entitled "Jeremy Taylor", supported by the house band Telephone Bill & The Smooth Operators, broadcast between 15 May and 19 June 1980 from the BBC's Shepherd's Bush Theatre. The shows' guests included Barbara Dickson, Alan Price, Spike Milligan, Kenny Baker, Pam Ayres, Peter Skellern and Isla St. Clair. After befriending popular folk-rock singer-songwriter, Cat Stevens, and his close friend and guitarist, Alun Davies, Taylor assisted Stevens with the translation of one of his songs, "O Caritas" for an upcoming album, Catch Bull At Four into Latin. One of Taylor's albums was produced by Davies. Davies also guested on a couple of the songs, but was uncomfortable with the idea of playing two roles on another person's album, saying to Melody Maker, "You can’t put yourself in two places at once and get the best results."
Some of Taylor's popular songs are: "Jobsworth", "Huberta, the hippopotamus", "The Pot Song", "Mrs Harris" and "Prawns in the Game". His song "Piece of Ground" was recorded in the United States by Miriam Makeba, however, his albums never reached most of the American music audience.
Taylor was a long-term collaborator and performer with Spike Milligan and recorded a live album with him entitled Spike Milligan and Jeremy Taylor: An Adult Entertainment. This was recorded at Cambridge University on 2 December 1973, and originally released as a double LP entitled Spike Milligan with Jeremy Taylor Live at Cambridge University. It was later re-issued as a 2-CD set.
- Ag Pleez Deddy (1961)
- Always something new out of Africa (1966) with Andrew Tracey and Paul Tracey
- His Songs (1968)
- More of His Songs (1970)
- Piece of Ground (1972)
- Jobsworth (1973)
- Done at a Flash - Live at the Old Vic (1974(?)) with Alun Davies
- Come to Blackpool (1974(?))
- The Very Best of Jeremy Taylor (1996); Reissue in (2004)
- Live in Chicago (2005)
- Spike Milligan and Jeremy Taylor: An Adult Entertainment
(Now out of print)
- Official website
- Jeremy Taylor memories of South Africa
- Jeremy Taylor reflections on his songs, career and an earlier tour of the States
- Jeremy Taylor introduces Telephone Bill & The Smooth Operators in his 1980 BBC 2 TV series on YouTube