This past Sunday, the musical world lost a legend that, I believe, many didn’t know existed. B.E. Taylor, of “Vitamin L” and, more importantly for me, Christmas music and tour fame, passed away on August 7, 2016 due to complications from a brain tumor.
William Edward (or “Billy Eddy”) Taylor was a singer-songwriter who was born in Aliquippa, PA, just a stone’s throw from where I grew up, and was one of my favorite artists of all time. He was an inspiration as a musician and as a person. He loved his fellow man and loved to entertain. More importantly, he was a devoted follower of Christ and was never afraid to make it known.
My first encounter with B.E. Taylor was when I was in my early years of high school. Taylor had for years made New Castle’s Scottish Rite Cathedral a prime stop on his Christmas tours. My parents told me they wanted to take me and how great it would be for me, a young musician, to see this man perform. The annual show was so popular that it was nearly impossible to get tickets for, meaning the chances for my family to attend the show were almost always slim-to-none.
But then we lucked out. A local classic rock station, Y103, had a yearly contest to gave away four tickets to the Christmas show at the Cathedral. My dad was lucky enough to win a set of tickets and an autographed copy of B.E. Taylor Christmas.
I first got a chance to listen to the album one Saturday morning while delivering newspapers. I remember saying to my parents after that morning, “It’s not what I expected. It’s really good.”
It wasn’t that I expected it not to be good. I guess it was just that, at that point in my life, I rarely found myself enjoying the same music that my parents did. But this, this was fantastic. It was all original takes on classic Christmas songs, and no song sounded the same. All of them were close enough to the original to be recognizable and easily sung, but they deviated enough from the better-known recordings that they felt refreshing. It’s still the first Christmas album to grace my speakers each year. Despite his passing, or maybe more aptly, because of his passing, this year will be no different.
Taylor’s style was all about having fun. He wore a seemingly permanent smile on his face that was infectious to those fortunate enough to be in attendance. He will be missed for more than just his music.
As Randy Baumann, WDVE’s morning show host, posted on his Facebook page, “B.E. Taylor was the kind of person that you strive to be. He was kind, he was thoughtful, he was happy and full of love for his friends and family. There wasn’t an ounce of pretense to B.E. […] Everybody loved him. He was a tremendously skilled artist, truly generous with his talent and an intensely proud of his family and his hometown. Pittsburgh lost a great artist and ambassador today. All the best to his friends and family.”
In honor of B.E., let’s all take and share a big dose of Vitamin L. It’s sure to make all things well.