Songwriter Jimmy Webb Scored Big Hits -- For Glen Campbell, That Is
By the time he gets to Phoenix, Jimmy Webb expects to be over the flu that's been dogging him recently. The consummate songwriter of such iconic hits as "MacArthur Park," Up, Up and Away," "Galveston," Wichita Lineman," and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," is excited to bring his intimate solo show to the Musical Instrument Museum.
Jimmy Webb on the cover of Letters, his 1972 release for Reprise Records.
Webb admits there is some added expectation and anticipation whenever he performs in the Valley as popular Phoenix-resident Glen Campbell scored some of his biggest hits with Webb-composed compositions.
"Honestly, it's a good kind of anticipation or anxiety," the affable Webb says by phone from New York. "I come into Phoenix with a tail wind because there's a natural curiosity. I think it would be strange if people weren't a little curious about the guy who wrote the songs."
Though every song Webb will perform will be familiar, it won't be the typical version the audience hears. Instead Webb performs the songs alone at the piano as he initially intended them to be played--before musicians and producers rearranged them.
"The audience gets to hear both sides," Webb explains. "They'll recognize the song and say, 'So that's how Jimmy Webb hears it.' I think that's interesting for an audience. It's another perspective and not the same old song they've heard a million times. I've heard it a million times, so I'm always looking to try and do something with the song to push it over the line, make it special."
Take for example, "Galveston," a song about a disenfranchised Vietnam Vet. Webb wrote the song to be slow, aching and painful. Campbell scored a huge hit by speeding up the song.
"Glen could take a song and say, 'I know how to make a hit out of that.' He could take that guitar of his into another realm. No sour grapes here ... [but] he probably cut Galveston two or three times faster than I wrote it,' Webb says, singing the chorus into the phone. "The song is so aching and lonely ... but he made a hit record out of it."