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James Taylor's 50th year at Tanglewood remains an 'economic stimulus' for the Berkshires

Singer and songwriter James Taylor, who lives in Lenox, Massachusetts, has been performing over July 4th weekend at Tanglewood for 50 years.
Courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Singer and songwriter James Taylor, who lives in Lenox, Massachusetts, has been performing over July 4th weekend at Tanglewood for 50 years.

One town in the Berkshires is expecting an extra 20,000 visitors this week for one reason: James Taylor.

The legendary singer is marking the 50th anniversary of his July 4th concerts at Tanglewood.

Every year, Taylor performs over two nights at the outdoor music venue in Lenox and the concerts are always sold out.

“I always joke that James Taylor is our economic stimulus,” said Jenn Nacht, who heads the Lenox Chamber of Commerce.

She said out-of-towners come for the weekend, filling up hotels, restaurants, and the roads — and boosting local revenue by about 20%.

Nacht said the fact that Taylor lives in Lenox and donates part of the concert proceeds to Tanglewood gives the event a special cache.

“It's like going to see U2 in Dublin, I would think,” Nacht said. “He’s been here for so many years, and it’s so part of his own history, that when you’re there, you feel you’re with the in-crowd and all part of something really special.”

Since the town has a half-percent hospitality tax on meals and lodging, she added, Lenox has come to see the James Taylor weekend as integral to its summer revenue.

And despite the added traffic, many locals look forward to Taylor’s annual event as well.

“They talk about him like they know him. They just love that he comes back and visits [Tanglewood] every year,” said Kaitlin Montgomery Bannon, who manages the Canyon Ranch spa in Lenox.

Bannon said the concerts help attract vacationers over the July 4th weekend, which might otherwise be reserved for a beach getaway.

“So definitely it does help us out in that sense [that we’re] more of a woodsy area, away from the beach for 4th of July,” she said. “You know, they get to enjoy the Berkshires and they get to enjoy James Taylor at the same time.”

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.
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