James Taylor knows a lot about drug addiction because he battled it for years and he’s glad to have survived the ordeal. He also values human rights and the rule of law—the reasons why he decided to cancel his Feb. 25, 2017, concert at SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The American singer-songwriter—highly regarded as a progenitor of folk-rock, a five-time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee who has sold more than 100 million records worldwide—announced the concert’s cancellation on Dec. 20 (Dec. 21 Manila time) on his official website jamestaylor.com, Twitter and Facebook accounts.
He said: “I’ve been eagerly looking forward to playing for my Philippine audience ever since we added Manila to our tour of the Pacific this coming February. So it saddens me to cancel our concert there.
“I don’t think of my music as being particularly political but sometimes one is called upon to make a political stand.
“The scourge of addiction is a worldwide problem and does serious harm, not only to the addict but [also] to our society. For a sovereign nation to prosecute and punish, under the law, those responsible for the illegal trade in drugs is, of course, understandable, even commendable.
“But recent reports from the Philippines of summary executions of suspected offenders without trial or judicial process are deeply concerning and unacceptable to anyone who loves the rule of law.”
Taylor, 68, began using heroin in the mid-1960s—and got hooked for many years until he successfully kicked the habit in the mid-1980s after the deaths of his friends, comedian/actor John Belushi and The Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson, and “a desire to be a better father to his children.”
In an article published in June 2015 in the British broadsheet The Telegraph, Taylor opened up about drug addiction.
“‘A big part of my story is recovery from addiction,’ he said matter-of-factly. ‘One thing that addiction does is, it freezes you. You don’t develop, you don’t learn the skills by trial and error of having experiences and learning from them, and finding out what it is you want, and how to go about getting it, by relating with other people. You short-circuit all of that stuff and just go for the button that says this feels good over and over again.’”
Taylor is currently on a world tour to promote his most recent album, “Before This World,” released in 2015.
“Sweet Baby James,” Taylor’s second album released in 1970, featured the single “Fire and Rain,” containing references to his attempt to break his drug habit by undergoing treatment in psychiatric institutions and the suicide of his friend, Suzanne Schnerr.
“I offer my heartfelt apologies for any inconvenience or disappointment this may cause my Filipino friends,” Taylor said in his statement. “All tickets sold will, of course, be fully refunded. I am grateful to my promoter, Renen de Guia, for his patience and understanding.
“This decision will, in no way, affect my plans to perform as announced in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.”
Nearly 50 percent of tickets to the canceled Manila concert have been sold, a source told the Inquirer.
‘In a bad light’
An opposition congressman said the cancellation of the music legend’s much-anticipated concert as a form of protest against the killings of suspected drug users and pushers in the country put the Philippines “in a bad light.”
“If Coldplay is listening now, would you also lend your voice to end this mayhem?” Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said in a statement. Coldplay is scheduled to perform in Manila in April next year.
“Well-meaning and respected global personalities have voiced concern over state-sponsored violence. In the meantime, President Duterte has proudly told the world how he himself killed in cold-blood alleged criminals while still mayor of Davao and warned that five to six will be killed daily [if the death penalty is restored],” Villarin said.
Villarin expressed concern over how Mr. Duterte “is turning the country into a killing field.”
“Our worst nightmare will be turning into a reality. It’s a deadly Christmas and a more bloody new year ahead. If people are against EJKs as survey shows, why would President Duterte continue such policy? What drives this madness to commit mass murder?” he said.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said Taylor’s cancellation of his concert “shows that any person, the common man or the celebrity singer, won’t tolerate inaction on the rising killings.”
What if Mr. Duterte ignores Taylor’s protest action?
“It’s typical of [the President] to shrug off the cancellation. He can always say it’s James Taylor’s loss, not his. Mr. Duterte is not a fan of ‘You’ve Got A Friend,’” Baguilat said.