The late Bill “B.E.” Taylor, who died last year at 65 after living with inoperable brain cancer for 10 years, easily was one of the most beloved musicians in the tri-state area.
“That’s because of the person he was,” says his son. musician B.C. Taylor.
“Everyone considered him their best friend. I do not know anyone else where that happens. During the funeral, I cannot tell you how many people told me that, ‘Your dad was my best friend.’ ”
Those friends and likely new ones will gather for two nights Dec. 17-18 for the 2018 “Feel the Love – Celebrating a B.E. Taylor Christmas Concert!” to resume an almost 20-year tradition at Heinz Hall, the wonderfully one-of-a-kind Christmas shows that rock artist B.E. Taylor, an Aliquippa native, started.
His regional hit
He was best known for his regional hit, “Vitamin L,” which also brought him national airplay.
The gentle musician, who exuded an exceedingly positive vibe and was blessed with a voice that rivaled anyone in the genre annually brought together an all-star cast of the region’s most talented artists, including returning musicians Rick Witkowski, Hermie Granati and Jeff Jimerson, among others.
Together they put together a heady repertoire of original material and found fresh ways to interpret classic Christmas music via jazz, rock, pop, blues, Gospel and other stylings. It struck an almost immediate appealing chord with all ages, from children through grandparents, who returned year after year in what became known by some as the “New Nutcracker” in terms of holiday traditions.
One of a kind “I stand firm in saying that there isn’t a show like this one anywhere,” says B.C. Taylor, the longtime drummer in the concerts who now lives in Nashville. “I have yet to be involved in a production that exudes so much love and positivity, whether from the stage or crowd.”
What his dad created was one of a kind, he adds.
“Dad would always say, ‘If you leave our show and you aren’t feeling the love, your last name must be Scrooge’ and I second that.”
He was loved
He was beloved by so many because he loved, he says.
“He loved life and performing. He loved his family and friends. He loved Christ,” Taylor says. “I try on a daily basis to be a fraction of the man he was. If I can do that, I will have lived a good life.”
Taylor says he is a Christian because of his father. “Not because he forced me to be, but because of how he lived,” he explains. “He never preached, but his actions and words were always based in his love for Christ. I believe that because he loved his Lord as much as he did, people could truly see it in him when meeting him.”
B.E. loved the shows
“My dad truly loved these shows and the people who came to them. He was so humbled and thankful each and every year.” Taylor recalls. “He would always say that it was bigger than any one person including himself. It was because of this attitude that so many people felt welcome and included in this special event.”
The musicians wanted to embrace the notion of “the show is bigger than all of us” so they all will be singing.
“I am so thankful to each person who is coming to the show. They are giving me the opportunity to play these songs again and that is a priceless gift to me,” Taylor says.
B.E Taylor advised his son to enjoy each day.“He has a song called ‘Great to Be Alive.’ If you want to know what my father was all about, listen to that song,” B.C. Taylor says. Keyboardist-vocalist Granati, who was friends with B.E. Taylor since they were teenagers, can’t wait to take the stage.
“Many people have told us that we brought them back to celebrating Christmas with their families,” he says. “Bill Taylor was so very giving of himself. He truly cared about his audience and made everyone feel special in his presence. Very humble and down to earth, he never forgot his Aliquippa roots and he wore love on his sleeve.”
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.
The late B.E. Taylor (from left), Jeff Jimerson and Hermie Granati
B.E. Taylor (left) and his musician friend since they were teenagers, Hermie Granati.
B.C. Taylor and his dad B.E. Taylor interact on stage.