“Jimmy Webb has written songs that can break your heart and touch your soul. He is an extraordinary talent.”Judy Collins
“‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ is the greatest torch song ever written.”Frank Sinatra
Jimmy Webb is an American songwriter, composer, and singer known worldwide as a master of his trade. His timeless hits continue to be performed and recorded by the industry’s biggest names, and his new compositions span the musical spectrum from classical to pop.
ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS
ORCHESTRA, SOLOISTS AND CHORUS
|Based on a children’s book by Anne Thaxter Eaton, The Animals’ Christmas, a cantata for soloists, a children’s choir and a small orchestra, tells the story of the Nativity of Jesus from the perspective of the animals present. The recording, released on Columbia Records, features Art Garfunkel and Amy Grant.|
“MacArthur Park” is a song written and composed by songwriter Jimmy Webb in 1967 and first recorded by Irish actor and singer, Richard Harris. It became a top hit on the Billboard music charts in June 1968, reaching No. 2 in the U.S., also topping charts in Europe, Australia, and Canada.
“MacArthur Park” is actually a love song – or rather, a lament over love lost – though it might not convey that message to all listeners at first impression. The song’s lyrics, arrangement, and structure are somewhat unusual and may seem a bit confounding. But given a chance, say its fans, the song will grow on you. And indeed, in 1968 the song did grow on a great many listeners, defying the odds on several levels, as it sold more than a million copies and would win a Grammy. It would also spawn more than 100 cover versions.
But initially, in the music business of its day, “MacArthur Park” was a hard sell and went nowhere. First, it ran 7:21 minutes at a time when 2-to-3 minutes was more the norm for pop radio play. Secondly, it was a pretty complex song musically. Third, its lyrics were baffling, confounding and/or distracting for some, and would later draw long-lived critique and parody. And fourth, it was not sung by a mainstream pop music star. Still, “MacArthur Park” rose above those supposed handicaps and became a hit in its day and would also become a hit for several other artists in later years. But added to this song’s musical and lyrical features, and perhaps more importantly, are its cast of interesting characters and storyline – including its inspiration, rejection, successful release, surprising range of covers.
Among those offering their interpretations have been: Tony Bennett, Liza Minnelli, Dionne Warwick, Andy Williams, Sammy Davis Jr., The Letterman, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Glen Campbell, Rod McCuen, the Ray Charles Singers, Elaine Page, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Carrie Underwood, and others. Instrumental and jazz versions have been offered by: Ferrante & Teicher, Percy Faith, Floyd Cramer, Stanley Turrentine, Doc Severinsen, Francis Lai, Woody Herman, Stand Kenton, Maynard Ferguson and others.
“MacArthur Park” at 7:21 minutes became the longest single at that time to ever become a Top Ten hit – Beatles’s producer George Martin would note that “MacArthur Park” cleared the way for “Hey Jude,” a No. 1 song of July 1968, which ran for 7:11 minutes.
5th Dimension’s pop hit recording of “Up, Up and Away” in 1967 launched both the group and the song’s writer, Jimmy Webb, into super-stardom. At the 1968 Grammy Awards, held in February 1968, “Up, Up and Away” was named Record of the Year (1967) and Song of the Year (1967). Many different artists have since recorded it.
When performing his solo shows all around the world, Webb would often improvise variations of his songs at the piano, coming up with new, fresh harmonies, rhythms and melody notes. Over time he arrived at a slightly altered interpretation of “Up, Up and Away” which has become his go-to version. He offers the orchestration for that version here. The recording below features Webb at the piano and singing, backed up by a full orchestra.