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(Credit: Press / Album cover)

Music

Listen to Joni Mitchell and James Taylor duet on 'You Can Close Your Eyes'

@SamWKemp

Of all James Taylor’s ballads, ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’ is surely one of the most tender. Because we care about you so much, dear reader, we’ve trawled through the archives to bring you this stunning rendition, which features the tight-knit harmonies of Taylor and Joni Mitchell. Considering the pair dated for a time, it’s no wonder the duet feels so intimate.

Released on James Taylor’s Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon album, ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’ was written for Mitchell while they were in New Mexico for Taylor’s role in the 1971 feature film Two-Lane Blacktop. The filming schedule was gruelling and Taylor didn’t enjoy the experience, but he did manage to have a bit of fun doing mescaline and driving the wide-open expanse of New Mexico with Mitchell and his co-star Warren Oates.

The story goes that Taylor wrote the track one evening after the day’s filming had concluded. No sooner had he returned to his Albaquerqe hotel room that the song came knocking. To this day, Taylor doesn’t know where it came from. Speaking on Top 2000 a gogo in 2007, Taylor opened up about this strangely mystical aspect of songcraft: “It’s a very unconscious process – writing songs, to me. They happen. I’m grateful when they do, they come through me, but I have no real direction of it. I just make songs that I want to hear, I make music that I want to hear. In many ways I feel as though I have the same experience of the songs that my audience does, it’s just that I hear them first.”

In ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’, the speaker fixates on a single moment, knowing that he’ll soon have to move along and leave his lover behind. In the first verse, Taylor sings: “Oh, the sun is surely sinking down / But the / moon is slowly rising / So this old world must still be spinning round / And I still love you.” Although the track was written for Mitchell, the couple would eventually part ways. This recording, however, taken from a John Peel Session around 1970, sees the couple still very much in love, their voices perfectly matched. A year after the single was released in 1971, Taylor married Carly Simon, with whom he would go on to re-record the track in 1977. But for me, ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’ will always be a Mitchell-Taylor number.

If you haven’t already, you can listen to James Taylor singing ‘You Can Close Your Eyes’ with Joni Mitchell below.