The sheer output of excellence from singer/songwriter Jimmy Webb is astonishing. He polished the musical brands of Glen Campbell, The Fifth Dimension, Art Garfunkel, Richard Harris, Linda Ronstadt, The Three Degrees and The Highwayman. His tunes were eclectic, with complex musical structures and rich arrangements. The cherries on top were the rich lyrics, completing delectable dishes that sometimes frightened the artists they who originally commissioned them. The commonality that made him rich was his ability to craft singable hooks in memorable musical packages that grabbed us from the first note and didn’t let go until the last measure.
His success as a performer was uneven. “Crying In My Sleep” was his one recording to make a significant dent in the Hot 100. But his immortality lies in the words and music he passed on to others. Thousands of artists have sung his stuff and many a performer owes their financial security to the gifts he gave them to share.
Our Much More Music section today is all Jimmy Webb. It was hard to choose which 4 to feature, but I think you’ll find a favorite in the group.
Today in History:The Dave Clark 5
1964: The Dave Clark Five performed ‘Glad All Over’ on the first of 18 appearances on CBS-TV’s ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.
1966: Lulu became the first British female singer to appear behind the Iron Curtain when she began a concert tour of Poland with the Hollies.
1968: Promoter Bill Graham opens an East Coast version of San Francisco’s Fillmore, in the East Village section of New York City. The first show at the Fillmore East features Big Brother & the Holding Company, Albert King, and Tim Buckley.
1969: The Small Faces disbanded with the departure of lead singer Steve Marriott who left to form Humble Pie.
1970: After parting with the Supremes, Diana Ross gave her first solo concert performance at the Monticello Dinner Theater & Night Club in Framingham, Massachusetts.
1971: Radio Hanoi aired Jimi Hendrix‘s version of ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’
1974: The newly formed Bad Company play their first live gig, at Newcastle City Hall in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. The band features former members of Free and Mott the Hoople.
1974: John Denver records ‘Annie’s Song‘ and ‘Thank God I’m A Country Boy‘ at RCA’s Music Center of the World studios in Los Angeles.
1979: Rolling Stone magazine reported that inflation had dramatically increased the cost of making and promoting a major label album to a new total somewhere between $350,000 and $500,000.
1993: ‘Beavis and Butthead‘ premiered as a series on MTV.
1999: Actress Peggy Cass died of heart failure at age 74.
1999: Baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio died of lung cancer at 84.
2016: Beatles producer George Martin dies at age 90. Paul McCartney says in a statement: ‘From the day that he gave The Beatles our first recording contract, to the last time I saw him, he was the most generous, intelligent and musical person I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.’
Happy Birthday To:
1841: Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, US 59th Supreme Court justice (1902-32), born in Boston, Massachusetts (d. 1935)
1910: Claire Trevor [Wemlinger], American actress (Marjorie Morningstar), born in NYC, New York (d. 2000)
1922: Cyd Charisse [Tula Finklea], American dancer and actress (Singin’ in the Rain), born in Amarillo, Texas (d. 2008)
1936: Gabor Szabo, Hungarian jazz guitarist (Perfect Circle) (d. 1982)
1942: Ralph Ellis (guitarist for The Swinging Blue Jeans) is born in Liverpool, England.
1943: Lynn Redgrave, British-American actress (Gods and Monsters, Georgy Girl), born in London, England (d. 2010)
1945: Micky Dolenz (drummer, vocalist for The Monkees) is born George Michael Dolenz, Jr. in Los Angeles, California.
1946: Randy Meisner (bassist for Poco, Eagles) is born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
1947: Songwriter Carole Bayer Sager is born in Manhattan, New York City.
1947: Michael Allsup (guitarist for Three Dog Night) is born in Oakdale, California.
1948: Little Peggy March is born Margaret Annemarie Battavio in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.
1976: Freddie Prinze Jr, actor (I Know What You Did Last Summer)
1977: James Van Der Beek, American actor (Dawson’s Creek), born in Cheshire, Connecticut
Much More Music:
1968 “Wichita Lineman” – Glen Campbell: Wichita Lineman has been referred to as “the first existential country song”. British music journalist Stuart Maconie went so far as to call it “the greatest pop song ever composed”. Jimmy Webb wrote many of Campbell’s hits and worked with him throughout his life. When he died, Webb called Glen “The American Beatle”, saying that Campbell could play with “any guitar player in the world, from George Benson to Eric Clapton,” adding that Paul McCartney himself considered Glen among the best guitar players. (Video)
1969 “Worst That Could Happen” – Brooklyn Bridge: Originally recorded by the 5th Dimension for their LP, The Magic Garden, Johnny Maestro focused his powerful pipes on the tune one year later, turning it into the Brooklyn Bridge’s only major hit. “Worst That Could Happen” appeared on the list of songs deemed inappropriate by Clear Channel following the September 11, 2001, attacks, specifically listing the The Brooklyn Bridge version, but not the 5th Dimension version, despite their note-for-note similarity. That’s Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” from the incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dreamat the end. (Video)
1970 “The Girl’s Song” – The 5th Dimension: This one didn’t gain much traction when it was released in 1967 on “The Magic Garden” LP, a collection full of Jimmy Webb compositions. It became a top 10 Adult Contemporary hit and ended up on the group’s “Greatest Hits” collection, where it caught the attention of DJs and charted in the top 40 in 1970. (Video)
Today’s Quote Worth Re-quoting: “I believe strongly in inspiration, inspiration literally meaning ‘full of the spirit.’ I do believe that it comes to you.” ~Jimmy Webb
One more for the road:
1968 “McArthur Park” – Paul Schafer & the CBS Orchestra: Originally intended for the Association and rejected by producer Bones Howe because of its “ambitious arrangement and unorthodox lyrics”, Richard Harris was the first to record “McArthur Park” in 1968. His version peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 after WABC’s Rick Sklar decided that 7:28 wasn’t too long a track for a Top 40 station. It was subsequently covered by numerous artists, including a hit version in 1969 by country music singer Waylon Jennings. It became one of jazz trumpeter, Maynard Ferguson‘s signature tunes. Donna Summer‘s disco arrangement from 1978 reached number one. The performance we feature here includes Jimmy Webb, himself, on keyboards with Paul Schafer and the CBS Orchestra. This magic moment happened during one of the final David Letterman broadcasts and is one of my personal faves. (Video)
Thanks for listening!
Host and Producer – Rock and Roll Revisited
Author: Motor City Music – Keener 13 and the Soundtrack of Detroit