Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 15: Songwriter Jimmy Webb- "Up, Up and Away," "Wichita Lineman," "The Worst That Could Happen” and "MacArthur Park – is 67-years-old today.

James Layne "Jimmy" Webb was born August 15, 1946 in Elk City, Oklahoma. With his mother's encouragement, Webb learned piano and organ, and by the age of 12 was playing in the choir of his father's churches, accompanied by his father on guitar and his mother on accordion.

Webb grew up in a conservative religious home where his father restricted radio listening to country music and white gospel music. During the late 1950s, Webb started writing songs, influenced by the church music he played and also by some of the new music he heard. In 1961, at the age of 14, he bought his first record, "Turn Around, Look at Me" by Glen Campbell.

In 1964, Webb and his family moved to Southern California, where he attended San Bernardino Valley College studying music. Following the death of his mother in 1965, his father made plans to return to Oklahoma. Webb decided to stay in California to continue his music studies and to pursue a career as a songwriter in Los Angeles. Webb would later recall his father warning him about his musical aspirations, saying, "This songwriting thing is going to break your heart."

Seeing that his son was determined, however, he gave him $40, saying, "It's not much, but it's all I have." After transcribing other people's music for a small music publisher, Webb was signed to a songwriting contract with Jobete Music, the publishing arm of Motown Records. The first commercial recording of a Jimmy Webb song was "My Christmas Tree" by The Supremes, which appeared on their 1965 Merry Christmas album.

The following year, Webb met singer and producer Johnny Rivers, who signed him to a publishing deal and recorded his song "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" on his 1966 album Changes. W

Webb went on to write numerous platinum-selling classics, including "Up, Up and Away,” "By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” "Wichita Lineman,” "Galveston,” "The Worst That Could Happen,” "All I Know,” and "MacArthur Park.” His songs have been performed by many popular contemporary singers, including Glen Campbell, The 5th Dimension, Thelma Houston, The Supremes, Richard Harris, Johnny Maestro, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes, Art Garfunkel, Amy Grant, America, Linda Ronstadt, R.E.M., Michael Feinstein, Donna Summer, Barbra Streisand, Sammy Davis Jr.,and Carly Simon.

According to BMI, his song "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" was the third most performed song in the fifty years between 1940 and 1990.

Webb is the only artist ever to have received Grammy Awards for music, lyrics, and orchestration. In 2007, he released a live album of his show, Live and at Large. The album included personal stories and anecdotes about Richard Harris, Waylon Jennings, Harry Nilsson, Glen Campbell, Art Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra, and Rosemary Clooney.

In June 2010, Webb released Just Across the River, an album of newly-arranged Webb song that featured guest appearances by Vince Gill, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne, Glenn Campbell, Michael McDonald, Mark Knopfler, J. D. Souther, and Linda Ronstadt.

In 2011, Webb was unanimously elected Chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, replacing Hal David who retired after ten years in that position.

 In May 2012, Webb travelled to London to receive the prestigious Ivor Novello Special International Award, which recognizes non-British writers and composers who have made an extraordinary contribution to the global musical landscape. In September 2012, Fantasy Records released Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb: In Session, a collaborative album by Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb.


For more about Jimmy, visit his Website at-

Macarthur Park Sings the Songs of Jimmy WebbUp-Up And Away: The Definitive Collection

Other Jimmy Webb Compositions:
-- "Paper Cup" The Fifth Dimension
-- "Witchita Lineman" Glen Campbell
-- "The Worst That Could Happen" Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge

Jimmy Webb Interview on National Public Radio (NPR) (Originally broadcast on Feb. 10, 2004)


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