Songwriter Jimmy Webb Scored Big Hits -- For Glen Campbell, That Is
Before artists like Campbell, Art Garfunkel, and The Fifth Dimension were earning Grammys with Webb's songs, Webb was just another struggling songwriter. Only 17 years old, Webb went to Los Angeles from West Texas. He wrote "songwriter" on job application forms and spent his "days trying to get a song recorded." Motown gave him a first chance, and he responded with "My Christmas Tree," recorded by the Supremes.
"The Supremes -- not bad right?" he says with a laugh. "I remember calling my father and saying 'you were wrong. I just got a check for $300.' I conquered the world; proved the old man wrong. But there are a lot of ups and downs in this game. For a few minutes I thought I had it by the tail."
Overly humble in his reminisce, Webb did have the music world by the tail, particularly in the 1960s as his compositions highlighted numerous gold and platinum selling albums. In 1968 alone he carried home Grammy Awards for three different songs.
His solo recording career was much less rewarding, garnering critical acclaim without commercial success. However, 2010's Just Across the River, featuring a number of guest artists including Lucinda Williams, Billy Joel, Mark Knopfler, and Campbell dueting on Webb classics, fared surprisingly well. A follow up is expected in April.
"They are certainly the most beautiful records I have ever made and maybe the most beautiful anyone has ever made," Webb says, adding, "if I can be so bold."
Given Webb's compositional success, he may know what he's talking about.
Jimmy Webb is scheduled to perform Friday, February 1, and Saturday, February 2, at the Musical Instrument Museum. Both shows are sold-out.