Born in 1989.
Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989, in Reading, Pennsylvania. The daughter of two bankers – her father, Scott Kingsley Swift, worked at Merrill Lynch; her mother Andrea spent time as a mutual fund marketing executive — Taylor was raised on a Christmas Tree Farm in suburban Wyomissing together with her younger brother Austin. She began to show interest in music at the age of nine, and Shania Twain wound up as her biggest formative influence. Soon, she learned how to play guitar and began writing songs, signing a music management deal with Dan Dymtrow. Taylor started to work regularly at local talent contests, eventually winning a chance to open for Charlie Daniels. When she was eleven, she took her homemade demo tapes to Nashville and continued traveling back and forth to Music City for the next three years. At fourteen, Taylor and her family permanently moved to the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, Tennessee, with the intent of furthering her music career. At the time she was already on the radar of the music industry, signing a development deal with RCA Records in 2004. Taylor sharpened her skills with a variety of professional songwriters, forming the strongest connections with Liz Rose. Taylor’s original songs earned her a deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, but not long after that 2004 deal she parted ways with Dymtrow and RCA, all with the intent of launching her recording career now, not later.
Things started moving swiftly once Taylor came to the attention of Scott Borchetta, a former DreamWorks Records exec about to launch Big Machine Records. Borchetta saw Taylor perform at a songwriters showcase at the Bluebird Cafe and he signed her to Big Machine in 2005; shortly afterward, she started work on her debut album with producer Nathan Chapman, who’d previously helmed demos for Taylor.
“Taylor Swift” appeared in October 2006 to strong reviews, boasting Taylor’s original song credits on every one of the record’s 11 songs (she penned three on her own), which touched upon topics like heartbreak and bullying she faced at school. Taylor made sure to work the album hard, appearing at every radio or television event offered and marshaling a burgeoning fan base through use of MySpace. “Tim McGraw,” the first song released from the album, did well but “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Our Song” did even better on both the pop and country charts, where she racked up five consecutive Top Ten singles. Taylor’s honesty and relatability appealed to fans from all walks of life, and went on to become the longest-charting album of the 2000s, spending 227 weeks on the Billboard 200. Other successes followed in the wake of the debut — a Grammy nomination for “Best New Artist” (she lost to Amy Winehouse) — but Taylor concentrated on delivering her sophomore set.
“Fearless“, came in November 2008 and cemented her status as a country superstar, while tracks like “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” also garnered mainstream attention. Not only did the record become her first No. 1 on the Billboard 200, but it also became the most-awarded country album of all time, winning accolades such as the Grammy award for “Album of the Year“. At the time, then-20-year-old Taylor was the youngest person to have ever received the honor. In the process, Taylor found a mass audience. However, along with the success also came some headlines, first in the form of an infamous appearance at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards where her acceptance speech was interrupted by Kanye West, who burst on-stage to declare that Beyoncé deserved the award more, but her romances also started gaining attention, notably a liaison with Twilight star Taylor Lautner, who appeared with the singer in the 2009 film “Valentine’s Day”.
Following the success of “Fearless”, some had doubts about Taylor’s songwriting abilities. So she decided to write her third album, “Speak Now“, alone to prove herself. Released in October 2010, the album was another massive first-week smash that refused to lose momentum. Hit singles like “Mine” and “Mean,” which won two Grammys, played a big factor in its success not just on the country charts but on pop radio as well. It became the fastest-selling digital album by a female artist in the U.S., selling over 278,000 digital downloads in its first week and saw great success at fan-influenced shows like the Billboard Music Awards. By this point, Taylor had moved into the stratosphere of superstardom.
Taylor turned toward following a pop path on her fourth album, hiring such mainstream musicians as Dan Wilson, Butch Walker, and Britney Spears producer Max Martin. This mainstream pulse was evident on “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” the first single from “RED”. Upon its October 2012 release, the album shattered expectations by selling over a million copies in its first week, a notable achievement that was doubly impressive in an era of declining sales. Once again, Taylor’s album had legs: it was certified platinum seven times in the U.S. and its international sales outstripped those of “Speak Now” by far. She supported “RED” with an international tour in 2013 and 2014 and more hits came, including “I Knew You Were Trouble.” and “22.” Despite being a cult-classic, “RED” eventually infamously lost the Grammy for “Album of the Year”, pushing Taylor to change her sound and approach to music entirely.
As Taylor geared up for the release of her fifth album in 2014, she made it clear that “1989” was designed as her first “documented, official” pop album and that there would be no country marketing push for the record. “1989” cemented her status as a musical titan, becoming her third straight album to sell over one million copies in its first week (a new record for any artist). The record has spent eleven non-consecutive weeks at No. 1. Lead single “Shake It Off” became one of her biggest hits, earning Taylor her first diamond single by March 2020. Taylor gathered many awards during the subsequent year, including Billboard’s “Woman of the Year”, the “Award for Excellence” at the American Music Awards, and a special 50th Anniversary “Milestone Award” from the CMAs. Her “1989 World Tour” crossed Asia, North America, and Europe during the last half of 2015 and earned over 250 million dollars in revenue. At the end of the album cycle, Taylor won the coveted Grammy for “Album of the Year“ again (along with two other Grammys for the album), using her acceptance speech to applaud hard-working women and becoming the first woman to win “Album of the Year” twice, and for different genres.
Around the time of her triumphant Grammy win, Taylor became entangled in a highly-publicized feud with rapper Kanye West, who claimed that his interrupting her speech at the 2009 Video Music Awards was what “made [her] famous” on his track “Famous.” After standing up for herself and claiming West never told her he would call her a “bitch” on the song, the public turned against Taylor and began calling her things like a “snake” and a liar on social media. Following the backlash, Taylor took a hiatus from the spotlight, breaking her typical cycle of releasing an album every two years. During this time, she worked on songs like “This Is What You Came For,” which she wrote for then-boyfriend Calvin Harris under a pseudonym, “Better Man,” which she wrote for country group Little Big Town, and “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” a collaboration with ZAYN that appeared in the film Fifty Shades Darker became an international hit.
In August 2017, Taylor took a DJ who groped her to court, after he tried to sue her for defamation. She counter-sued for a symbolic $1 and the jury decided in her favor. Taylor told TIME that she went through with the trial to stand in solidarity with other survivors of sexual assault, which was especially poignant in the face of the #MeToo Movement that was rising at the time.
Just days after the case concluded, Taylor wiped her social media accounts to tease the release of “Look What You Made Me Do” and her sixth studio album, November 2017’s “reputation“. Despite the previous summer’s conflict, the record had her second biggest sales week to date, debuting at No. 1 and selling 1.21 million copies in the U.S. in its first week, more than all the other 199 albums on the Billboard chart combined. It also went on to become the best-selling U.S. album of 2018, despite its 2017 release, and won accolades like the American Music Award for “Favorite Pop/Rock Album”.
“reputation” was Taylor’s last album with Big Machine Records before signing with Republic Records. Following her new contract, Scott Borchetta sold Big Machine Records to entertainment mogul and Taylor’s biggest enemy, Scooter Braun. Taylor took to social media to describe her hurt and disappointment, but vowed to re-record the albums Braun purchased so she could be the full owner.
Taylor’s dedication to artistic ownership became a large focus of the “Lover” era — she co-produced most tracks on the album, as well as directing or co-directing each music video, including “ME!”, “You Need To Calm Down“, “Lover” and “The Man“. She also became politically vocal, starting with an October 2018 Instagram post about the U.S. midterm elections and continuing with acts like her support of the LGBT community on “You Need to Calm Down.”
In November 2019, the American Music Awards named Taylor as the “Artist of the Decade”, and she performed a medley of some of her biggest hits at the ceremony. That night, she also beat Michael Jackson’s record to become the artist with the most AMA wins in history, earning her 29th award. The next month, Billboard named Taylor their “Woman of the Decade”. In January 2020, Taylro released “Miss Americana“, a documentary directed by Lana Wilson that offered fans an unprecedented glimpse into Taylor’s everyday life and decision to speak up about politics, alongside “Only The Young”, a political track she wrote while recording “Lover”.
FOLKLORE AND EVERMORE
In July 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Taylor released her eighth studio album, “folklore“, after announcing it only a day before, making it her first “surprise” release. While most of her work is autobiographical, she notably focused on telling other people’s stories throughout the record. She went on to release “folklore: the long pond studio sessions” on the streaming service, Disney+, where she performed the entire album live for the first time. She released the follow-up project “evermore” in December 2020, expanding the stories she told on “folklore”, making history as both her second surprise release of the year, as well as her entire career. In March 2021, “folklore” won the Grammy award for “Album of the Year”, making Taylor the only woman to have won this achievement thrice – she’s tied with Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.
In April 2021, Taylor released her first re-recorded album, the new version of her album second studio album, “Fearless”. Titled “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)”, the album includes six new songs Taylor had written from 2007 to 2008.