Jimmy Webb will perform at the Egyptian Theatre this weekend
June 10, 2014
Anyone who has listened to the radio within in the past 40 years has probably heard a song written by Jimmy Webb.
Glen Campbell, Linda Ronstadt, the Supremes, Richard Harris, Frank Sinatra, the Fifth Dimension, the Temptations, Barbara Streisand, Carly Simon and many others have recorded his tunes.
"Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," "The Worst that Could Happen" and "MacArthur Park" are just a few of Webb’s charting singles. And he’ll play them in Park City at the Egyptian Theatre Saturday and Sunday.
During the show, Webb will tell a lot of stories.
"They are like the scenes behind the songs, which are base points for albums," Webb said during a telephone interview with The Park Record from his home located on the North Shore of Long Island, near Oyster Bay. "They are the places where everything starts at the bottom of the well."
While Webb could easily play four hours worth of music, he knows he has to whittle his list down to the main hits.
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"People want to hear Glen Campbell, Linda Ronstadt and a surprising number of people want to hear ‘MacArthur Park,’" he said with a chuckle. "So there are some things that I’m almost certain to do, but there are times when I will wander off the path and go into the deep catalog, which Jimmy Webb fans do know pretty well."
The show is meant to be entertaining.
"It’s a lot of good fun, in spite of the fact that some of the songs are love songs and some of the songs are kind of sad," he said. "I have ways of making the show not too depressing."
Still, there will be some poignant moments.
"The Glen Campbell songs have become very important in the past couple of years because he is in a condition now from Alzheimer’s where he is unable to perform," Webb said. "Furthermore, Linda Ronstadt has retired from singing as well. So the songs I wrote for her also have special meaning."
The songwriter is always surprised at how many people like to hear "MacArthur Park," which became a No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for Academy Award-nominated actor Richard Harris in 1968.
"That’s so odd and off the wall," Webb said.
While Webb likes all the songs he has written, there are some that he favors more than others.
"More often than not, they aren’t as well known," he said.
"The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" is one of those songs. It’s an album cut that got recorded by Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, Shawn Colvin and Glen Campbell.
"Even Pat Metheny recorded a version of it and it became a minor standard without living the life as a single," Webb said. "That’s just as well, because in today’s world, there isn’t really such a thing as a single."
Throughout his career, Webb said he has been constantly surprised when an artist will cover one of his songs.
"I think one of the biggest surprises was when R.E.M. did ‘Wichita Lineman’ for a DVD," he said. "I was really shocked."
Another time was when James Taylor recorded the song.
"He and I ended up playing the song at Carnegie Hall for a rainforest benefit," Webb said. "I kept pinching myself because there’s James Taylor singing my song and I’m playing piano for him at Carnegie Hall. I thought, ‘I’m back on drugs!’"
Still, the surprises is all part of the songwriting business.
"I wouldn’t trade being a songwriter for any job," he said.
Webb, the son of a Baptist minister began playing piano when he was 6.
"My dad was an ex Marine and very strict in the house, and my mother was the buffer zone," he said. "One thing she was tough about, though, was piano lessons. She gave me a mandate that by 12 I would become the church pianist."
the time he was 10, Webb was playing for church services and moved to the organ.
When he was 12, Webb started listening to rock ‘n’ roll, against his father’s wishes.
"He got this curious idea that Rock ‘n’ Roll was about sex," Webb said, laughing. "So I had to do it on the sly."
At that time, Webb wrote a song called "Someone Else," that later became a hit for Art Garfunkel.
"I wrote that songs when I was 12 going on 13," Webb said.
Another incident that led Webb to songwriting happened during a school talent show.
"One of the prettiest girls invited me over to her house," he said. "I had never been invited anywhere by a girl before, and I came to the realization that songwriting could work out."
In 2003, Webb published a book, "Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting," which was about the mechanics of songwriting.
He is currently working on a new book, a memoir that will be published sometime next year.
"It’s about the crazy and surreal life that I lived when I was in my 20s," he said. "I have about 18 months to write it and am hoping to release a new solo album in consort.
"I am looking forward to recording new songs, because I don’t want to record ‘Wichita Lineman’ ever again," Webb said with a laugh."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will welcome award-winning songwriter Jimmy Webb on Saturday, June 14, and Sunday, June 15, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $50 and are available by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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