Updated: Oct 11
Video from Studio Ten
America has several great songwriters/composers throughout our history.
How many of you remember the songs Up Up and Away by The 5th Dimension, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Galveston and Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell, the 45’s of MacArthur Park by Richard Harris and Worst That Could Happen by Johnny Maestro and The Brooklyn Bridge —all that music is from the heart, soul and mind of a minister’s child from Oklahoma named Jimmy Webb. He has written folk, pop or show tunes, rock, jazz, you name it.
For me and perhaps for you some of my most profound and yes sad memories are punctuated with Jimmy Webb songs. They illicit deep memories of a distant time in the past when I was growing up in Houston, Texas. Of God’s many gifts he has given us, music and the memories it helps make are a remarkable thing. It is part of what makes us human. Did Christ play a musical instrument, did he sing?
Jimmy Webb has over the years worked with artists like Linda Ronstadt, Art Garfunkel, The Supremes, Barbara Streisand, Joe Cocker, Kanye West. For my generation his songs go deep reminding us of more innocent times, as well as helping past and future generations through adversity.
At age 19 he had hits on the charts with the 5th Dimension (“Up, Up and Away”) and Glen Campbell (“By the Time I Get to Phoenix”). It would take one more year for his eternal smash “MacArthur Park” to hit the airwaves. It did not take long for him to become a rock’n’roll wild man. A night of drink, drugs and chaos with Harry Nilsson and John Lennon put him in a coma, which later required him to re-learn the piano all over again. There are many stories of egomania, debauchery and a complex love life.
Jimmy Webb had a Baptist Minister for a father who did not like him from listening to popular music. His mother who was a compassionate disciplinarian encouraged him to learn how to play, and that was vital to his later career. Webb eventually met music legend Johnny Rivers and began writing and working for his company. Webb’s most enduring collaboration was with Glen Campbell. Webb had heard Campbell as a young boy, and even then, he realized there was something unique.
“I cannot completely account for the symmetry between those songs (I write) and Glen’s voice except in a very roundabout way, which is to say that I heard my first Glen Campbell record when I was 14. It was called ‘Turn Around, Look at Me.’ It was one of his very early efforts. He would have been 24 years old. He was always 10 years older than me. I could never catch up. I know if I was 14, I know he was 24. That’s young. So, I thought, “Boy, that’s pretty and that guy can sing. I want to write songs like that.” In a sense, I was always writing that kind of a ballad. There was a resonance there the first time I ever heard him.” Webb recalled.
In an October 2007 interview with Nigel Bovey, editor of The Salvation Army newspaper The War Cry, Webb was quite explicit about his renewed faith. “I couldn't write a song without God. Sure, I could hack out hackneyed phrases and clichés, but to write anything meaningful I have to be in tune with God. He is the great source, my inspiration, the current that I have to connect to. Sadly, I've not always used the gift He's given me—the answered prayer—as best as I could or should have. I've made mistakes. I've done things I wish I hadn't done. Webb has stated, "I am a strong believer in God.... God is important to me. God is bigger than any one particular denomination. I don't like it when people try to confine Him. I don't put any limits on God." Webb reads the King James Version of the Bible.” (from Wikipedia)
Video from Dinkeydoo40
The Cake and the Rain by Jimmy Webb - autobiography (link)