You Can Close Your Eyes

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"You Can Close Your Eyes"
You Can Close Your Eyes label.jpeg
Single by James Taylor
from the album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon
A-side"You've Got a Friend"
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)James Taylor
Producer(s)Peter Asher

"You Can Close Your Eyes" is a song written by James Taylor which was released on his 1971 album Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. It was also released as the B-side to his #1 single "You've Got a Friend". It has often been described as a lullaby. It was initially recorded by his sister Kate Taylor for her 1971 album Sister Kate. The song has been covered by many artists, including Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Maureen McGovern, Richie Havens, Sheryl Crow, Sting, Eddie Vedder with Natalie Maines and the King's Singers.

James Taylor's version[edit]

Taylor wrote "You Can Close Your Eyes" about a year before it was recorded in early 1971.[1][2] Taylor regards it as "a secular hymn."[2] Author Dave Thompson considers it one of the best songs Taylor had written up to that point.[1] Allmusic critic Bill Janovitz describes "You Can Close Your Eyes" as "a beautiful lullaby", and Rolling Stone critic Ben Gerson similarly calls it "an exquisite lullaby."[3][4] Critic Al Rudis goes further, saying that the song "continues [Taylor's] hold on the world championship of lullaby composers."[5] Allmusic's William Ruhlmann describes it as a "moving" song that affirms romance.[6] Martin Charles Strong describes it as being "lovely" and "more affecting" than "You've Got a Friend."[7]

Gerson compares the song's melody to that of Cat Stevens' "Here Comes My Baby."[4] Janovitz points out a duality in the lyrics, however. The lyrics attempt to comfort the singer's lover, possibly after a fight.[3] But the lyrics also sound a possibly ominous note, in that he sings "But I can sing this song/And you can sing this song when I'm gone," suggesting that he may be leaving her soon, although it is not specified whether "I'm gone" refers to ending the relationship or just going away for a while.[3] Gerson notes that the themes in the song of farewell and that this could be the singer's last song are themes that run throughout the Mud Slide Slim album, calling "You Can Close Your Eyes" "the song which repudiates songs."[4]

Authors including Thompson and Sheila Weller have suggested that the song was written to Taylor's one-time girlfriend Joni Mitchell.[1][8][9] Taylor has confirmed this theory, stating during at least one stage performance that it was written for Mitchell. The song was written while Taylor and Mitchell were staying in a hotel in Tucumcari, NM as Taylor was filming "Two-Lane Blacktop." The only instrumentation is Taylor's acoustic guitar,[4] although live performances confirm that the closing riff actually blends two guitars to create the baroque effect. Janovitz praises Taylor's "exquisite" guitar playing, particularly noting the "Renaissance-meets-country-folk riff" at the beginning and end of the song.[3] He also praises Taylor's "vulnerable" "quiet" singing.[3]

Taylor has performed "You Can Close Your Eyes" in live concerts many times, including accompanied by other singers. He performed it with Mitchell during the early 1970s.[8] One such performance, from October 16, 1970, is included on the 2009 album Amchitka. A performance with Carole King is included on the 2010 album Live at the Troubadour.[10] A solo live performance leads off the 1998 video Live at the Beacon Theater and a different solo live performance closes the 2007 live album One Man Band.[11][12] A live performance is included on The Essential James Taylor.[13] A live version was also included on the Japanese release of the compilation album Greatest Hits Volume 2.[14] The studio version was included on the compilation album The Best of James Taylor.[15]

Cover versions[edit]

Linda Ronstadt covered "You Can Close Your Eyes" as the closing track of her 1974 album Heart Like a Wheel.[1][16][17] According to music journalist Dave Thompson, producer Peter Asher, who produced both Taylor's Mud Slide Slim and Ronstadt's Heart Like a Wheel, reinvented the song for Ronstadt.[1] Thompson considers it a "highlight" of Heart Like a Wheel.[1]

James Taylor's ex-wife Carly Simon covered the song on her 2007 album Into White accompanied by her children with Taylor, Sally Taylor and Ben Taylor.[8] Author Sheila Weller describes this version as "slow, spectral" and "achingly beautiful."[8] According to Allmusic critic Thom Jurek, mother and children "perform gorgeously" on this version.[17]

Taylor's sister Kate Taylor recorded the song for her 1971 album Sister Kate.[18] Allmusic critic Joe Viglione called it one of the "real knockout tunes" on Sister Kate.[18]

Richie Havens covered "You Can Close Your Eyes" on his 1976 album The End of the Beginning.[19] Maureen McGovern covered "You Can Close Your Eyes" as the closing track of her 1992 album Baby I'm Yours.[20] Sheryl Crow covered it on her 2003 album Artist's Choice: Sheryl Crow.[21] The a cappella group the King's Singers covered the song on their 2008 album Simple Gifts.[22]

Sting performed "You Can Close Your Eyes" for a tribute concert for James Taylor in 2006.[23] Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, accompanied by the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines covered the song in concert in 2010.[24]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Dave Thompson (2012). Hearts of Darkness: James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, and the Unlikely Rise of the Singer-Songwriter. Backbeat Books. ISBN 9781458471390.
  2. ^ a b White, T. (2009). Long Ago and Far Away. Omnibus Press. p. 185. ISBN 9780857120069.
  3. ^ a b c d e Janovitz, B. "You Can Close Your Eyes". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  4. ^ a b c d Gerson, B. (June 24, 1971). "Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  5. ^ Rudis, A. (May 8, 1971). "Taylor Keeps Tight Hold on Lullaby Championship". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 55. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  6. ^ Ruhlmann, W. "Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  7. ^ Strong, M.C., ed. (2002). The Great Rock Discography. Canongate. ISBN 9781841953120.
  8. ^ a b c d Weller, S. (2008). Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon--And the Journey of a Generation. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781416564775.
  9. ^ Hoskyns, B. "Lady of the Canyon". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  10. ^ Erlewine, S.T. "Live at the Troubadour". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  11. ^ Phares, H. "Live at the Beacon Theater". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  12. ^ Erlewine, S.T. "One Man Band". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  13. ^ Collar, M. "The Essential James Taylor". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  14. ^ Ruhlmann, W. "Greatest Hits Volume 2". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  15. ^ Jurek, T. "The Best of James Taylor". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  16. ^ Erlewine, S.T. "Heart Like a Wheel". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  17. ^ a b Jurek, T. "Into White". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  18. ^ a b Viglione, J. "Sister Kate". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-13.
  19. ^ "The End of the Beginning". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  20. ^ "Baby I'm Yours". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  21. ^ Tilland, W. "Artist's Choice: Sheryl Crow". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  22. ^ Manheim, J. "Simple Gifts". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  23. ^ "Great Performances: A Tribute to James Taylor". Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  24. ^ Pearl Jam (2013). Pearl Jam Twenty. Simon & Schuster. p. 358. ISBN 9781439169377.

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