“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” by James Taylor (1971)

I used to need music to fall asleep. From the time I was 15 or so through my early thirties, I wasn’t hitting the sack without the radio (thanks, Delilah), a tape in the cassette deck, a disc in the CD player, or a specially made playlist in the background.

At least for the first few years, I would play specific albums every night as part of my bedtime ritual. At various times, it was Kenny G Live (don’t @ me). For a while, it was Every Breath You Take: The Singles by The Police (they crept into my subconscious and became my favorite rock band). There was a period when I was falling asleep to The Orb Live, and then there was James Taylor’s Greatest Hits. The one with the simple white cover with the tracks listed in black type. More than 10 million people own it; I’m sure there are still folks out there who are getting some shut eye to the relaxed strumming of JT.

As a result of repeated exposure to that album (and the fact that James Taylor is one of America’s best singer/songwriters), almost every track from that compilation is going to be a five star jam. “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”, the song that I believe leads off Side 2 of the LP and cassette (too lazy to confirm right now) is quintessential James. Kind of sad, yearning lyrics, and that pure voice.

Although there are a lot of “classic rock” songs I initially became familiar with via R&B covers, I’m pretty sure I heard JT’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” before The Isley Brothers’ semi-contemporaneous cover. Ronald Isley is a badass, but in this case, plainspoken bests overwrought. JT’s version is (slightly) better, but both versions should be in your collection.

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