Memoirs of Mental Health: James Taylor

Today, I’m excited to share about James Taylor’s memoir, Break Shot: My First 21 Years. Though I’ve never heard Taylor’s music, I really enjoyed the audiobook version, as it’s read by the author and includes relevant music by James Taylor throughout.

What sets this memoir apart from others that I’ve read is the fact that it covers the author’s life up to age 21.  Taylor admits that by writing the memoir, that he was able to better process the adversity and mental health challenges that characterized his childhood and adolescence. Examples include:

  • Father’s struggle with alcoholism, infidelity, and suicide attempts
  • Generational trauma
  • Grief and loss
  • Several hospitalizations in mental institutions and rehabilitation facilities
  • Taylor’s addiction to heroin at a young age

Noteworthy Quotes:

“Somehow in the 60s, our family fell apart. Three of us kids ended up in psychiatric hospitals and the fourth should’ve. Drug and alcohol addiction tore us up.”

“You can make a case that most of the songs I’ve written are my way of trying to work out what happened to us.”

“Songs have healing power, songs help people celebrate, songs let people commiserate. A lot of my own work has been therapeutic. It’s a lucky accident that those songs have reached other people and have let them know they’re not alone.”

“A teacher named Mr. Miller took notice and tried to help me through. In so many cases, the impulse towards teenage suicide will pass if the young person can only get through that bad stretch. You just need someone to reach out a hand.”

“That 9 months [in a psychiatric hospital] saved my life, gave me structure, kept me in line. I’m not talking about the psychiatric treatment, that did nothing for me. What [the hospital] did was to disconnect any expectation that my family had for me.”


I really enjoyed this memoir and encourage you to check it out. It’s currently available for free on Audible.

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