Also Credited As:Taylor Alison Swift
|Taylor Alison Swift on December 13, 1989 in Reading, Pennsylvania, USA|
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Taylor Alison Swift was born on Dec. 13, 1989 in Reading, PA to Scott Swift, a stock broker, and Andrea, a homemaker. She grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Wyomissing, PA, where one of her chores was to rake Praying Mantis pods off the trees with the help of her younger brother, Austin. Her grandmother, a former opera singer, was as much of an influence on the youngster as the music of Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton. By the time she was 10 years old, Swift was making her name known in her small town, competing at various festivals, karaoke contests and state fairs. The self-taught artist strummed her first guitar chord when she was 12 and wrote her first song that same evening. Realizing their daughter's musical gift and star potential, Swift's parents began taking her to Nashville to meet with local songwriters and record company executives. With demo tapes in hand, Swift took a liking to the legendary city during her regular trips so her family eventually moved to nearby Hendersonville. While Swift was a straight-A student at Hendersonville High School, music enveloped her. Whether she found herself humming a tune down the school halls or writing lyrics on the side pages of her notebook, Swift's high school experiences - from friendships to first love to heartbreak - became the backbone of her song lyrics.
Swift made her stage debut at a showcase held at the Bluebird Café, where she met Scott Borchetta. The music industry veteran was starting a new label, Big Machine Records, and signed her on his artist roster that included Trisha Yearwood and Jack Ingram. She released her self-titled debut album in 2006, fueled by the single "Tim McGraw," written when she was 16 and inspired by a summer romance and McGraw's own 2004 hit "Can't Tell Me Nothin'." The album exploded up the charts, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 200 and taking the top spot on the Billboard Top Country Albums. In 2007, Swift performed "Tim McGraw" at the Academy of Country Music Awards with the song's namesake in the audience. In a sweet and bold gesture, Swift walked off stage and over to McGraw's seat, introducing herself to him for the first time. Her second single "Teardrops on My Guitar" (2007), a lush ballad about unrequited love, was written about a boy she liked in high school. The accompanying music video earned Swift a Best New Artist nomination at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. Her album gained even more steam after Swift went on the road with McGraw and his wife Faith Hill for the couple's 2007 tour, as well as opening for country hit makers George Strait, Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts. She was nominated for Best New Artist at the 2008 Grammy Awards, but lost to British soul singer Amy Winehouse.
On Nov. 11, 2008, Swift released her second album, Fearless to record-breaking sales. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart and became the highest debut of any country artist that year. The album was not without the adolescent yearnings synonymous with Swift's songwriting, yet there was an evident maturity and growing sophistication. The first single, "Love Story," was a country/pop crossover success, thanks to its catchy guitar riff and the track's modern take on Romeo and Juliet. Swift was unapologetically honest when it came to songwriting, with no song more evidence of this than "Forever & Always," inspired by how her ex-boyfriend, teen heartthrob Joe Jonas of The Jonas Brothers, ended their relationship with a 30-second phone call. Swift topped the charts once again with the bouncy tune "You Belong with Me" (2009), about a shy girl who pines for the most popular guy in school. The single was only the second country song to reach No. 1 in the Mainstream Top 40 chart after her own "Love Story." In April 2009, Swift kicked off her first headlining tour, visiting 52 cities in North America and Canada over six months, and selling out major venues from Los Angeles' Staples Center to New York's Madison Square Garden in minutes. She brought the "Fearless Tour" to Europe later that year.
The video for "You Belong with Me" earned Swift her very first MTV Video Music Award - and the first time a country artist had ever won on the show. Upon accepting her Best Female Video trophy during the September ceremony, Swift's crowning moment was cut short after rapper and notorious poor sport Kanye West rushed to the stage, yanked the microphone from her, and proclaimed Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" video more deserving of the honor. The outrageous incident left everyone at Radio City Music Hall speechless while a confused and embarrassed Swift, glowing in her sequined gown, was led off stage in a bit of shock. Outrage against the rapper ensued throughout the broadcast, leading to boos whenever his name was mentioned, while Swift kept her composure throughout the show, even performing a live version of "You Belong with Me." The night concluded with Beyoncé - who was accepting her award for Video of the Year - asking Swift to come to the stage and make her acceptance speech that had been robbed from her earlier. West, who had been ushered out of the venue after the incident, truly felt the VMA backlash the next day and for days after - from editorial headlines decrying "What happened to civility?" to fellow artists taking to Twitter to mock him to even being called "a jackass" by President Barack Obama during an off-the-record interview.
In the wake of KanyeGate, the country fell even more in love with Swift. In fact, some begrudgingly felt that West breaking the teenager's spirit on live TV was the best thing that could have happened to Swift on a mainstream level. After a September 15th appearance on "The View" (ABC, 1997- ), the singer received a personal phone call backstage from West apologizing for his disrespectful outburst. After the awkwardness of September, the awards kept pouring in for most of the year, including a historic win at the 2009 CMA Awards, where Swift nabbed the title of Entertainer of the Year, making her the youngest artist to do so. A few weeks later, she won five American Music Awards, even beating out legend and sentimental favorite Michael Jackson as the Artist of the Year. All eyes were on the pop princess when she hosted and performed as the musical guest on a November episode of "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). Swift's opening monologue took its cue from the artist's innate gift for composing a song in minutes and addressed everything from the Joe Jonas breakup to the Kanye West incident. Swift also impersonated reality TV star Kate Gosselin - complete with the "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" star's signature spiky hairstyle - for a hilarious segment spoofing "The View." In fact critics went out of their way to heap accolades upon the singer for a natural comic timing and for hosting one of the best episodes of the calendar year; certainly the best episode of the 2009-10 season up until that time.
Even though 2009 was a banner year for Swift's music, it also saw the young star's acting career blossom onscreen. She first made a cameo in the Jonas Brothers' feature film "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience," which earned over $12 million its opening weekend. Swift performed the ballad "Crazier" in "Hannah Montana: The Movie," starring her celebrity pal Miley Cyrus. Her growing acting resume put Swift on the map with other multitalented stars such as Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. Swift momentarily shed her good girl image - and wore a brunette wig - to play a 16-year-old murdered by her mother after a heated argument on a mind-blowing episode of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" titled "Turn, Turn, Turn" (2009). It was a dream finally realized for the singer, who had obsessively watched the hit crime drama for years. The singer capped off an impressive year with yet another music milestone when her self-titled debut, released three years earlier, became the longest-running album of the decade on the Billboard 200.
In 2010, Swift made her big screen acting debut in "Valentine's Day," directed by Garry Marshall who had made Julia Roberts a star over 20 years earlier with "Pretty Woman" (1990). The all-star ensemble cast included Hollywood heavyweights Roberts, Queen Latifah, and Jamie Foxx, as well as up-and-comers such as "Twilight" (2008) star Taylor Lautner, who played Swift's love interest. Photos of the young couple kissing while shooting the film even sparked rumors they were dating in real life, which turned out to be true for a brief time in late 2009. The following year, Swift released her third album, Speak Now (2010), which sold over four million copies and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Country Album. She went on to win Grammys for Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance for her hit single, "Mean." Toward the end of 2010, Swift was in the news for her all-too-brief dalliance with actor Jake Gyllenhaal, which sparked a high level of interest from the tabloids. Following a world tour to support her album, Swift made her animated debut voicing Audrey in "The Lorax" (2012), and moved on in her personal life to start dating Conor Kennedy, eldest son of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the late Mary Richardson Kennedy. Swift had been a family friend for several years, growing particularly close to matriarch Ethel Kennedy. She made considerable news when the singer was rumored to be buying a Hyannis Port house directly across the street from Ethel's home. During the promotional tour touting her latest album, Red in the fall of 2012, it was confirmed that Swift and Kennedy had broken up.