James Taylor's "Carolina in My Mind," which appears on his 1968 self-titled debut album, is a classic ode to the singer/songwriter's home state of North Carolina. With serene acoustic guitar, the Chapel Hill native sings about his homesickness and travels back to his home state in his mind. And as it turns out, Taylor wrote the song while he was far away from home on a Spanish island.
Taylor composed the tune while signed to The Beatles' record label, Apple Records. While he was recording his debut album, he took a trip to the island of Formentera off the coast of Spain. He then met a Swedish woman named Karin, and the two of them traveled to the neighboring island of Ibiza. The pair ended up stranded on the island after missing the last boat of the night, and they didn't have money for a hotel, so they sat outside of a café for the night. That is where "Carolina in My Mind" was born.
"I started getting homesick and I thought of this song and my home so far away and wrote 'Carolina in My Mind' as the sun was coming up," Taylor said on Late Night With Seth Meyers.
Taylor's new friend Karin, of course, made an appearance in the song with a different spelling of her name.
"Well Karen she's a silver sun / You best walk her way and watch it shinin' / Watch her watch the mornin' come / A silver tear appearing, now I'm cryin' / Ain't I goin' to Carolina in my mind," he sings in the second verse.
This then leads into the classic and nostalgic chorus in which Taylor paints a picture of his home.
"In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina/ Can't you see the sunshine, sugar?/ Can't you just feel the moonshine? / Maybe just like a friend of mine / To hit me from behind / Yes I'm goin' to Carolina in my mind."
The song was recorded in London at Trident Studios and produced by Peter Asher. Taylor recorded his debut album at the same time The Beatles were recording their self-titled project, and "Carolina in My Mind" features credits from Paul McCartney on bass guitar and George Harrison on backing vocals. Other session musicians include Freddie Redd on organ, Mick Wayne on guitar, Joel "Bishop" O'Brien on drums, and Asher on tambourine. Influence from The Beatles also made its way into the song lyrics. The line "holy host of others standing around me" refers to the iconic band recording in the same studio as Taylor.
Although the song did not become a radio hit, it has become one of Taylor's greatest hits by way of critical acclaim. Taylor's self-titled debut album was followed by his sophomore project, Sweet Baby James, which featured his hit, "Fire and Rain." Taylor later re-recorded "Carolina in My Mind" for his 1976 Greatest Hits album. Taylor's self-titled debut album also includes "Something In The Way She Moves," which inspired The Beatles' song, "Something."