Songcraft: Spotlight on Songwriters Podcast

Jimmy Webb

Ep. 60 - Jimmy Webb
By The Time I Get to Phoenix: The Great American Songwriter

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Scott and Paul catch up with songwriting superstar Jimmy Webb to find out about his secret childhood prayer that actually came true; the reason his father banished him and his piano to the garage; why Johnny Rivers was responsible for his success; what he thinks about Dave Barry calling "MacArthur Park" "the worst song of all time;" the question that Elvis Presley sought him out to ask during a party hosted by Frank Sinatra; the line from one of his most famous songs that still bugs him decades later; and why writing a memoir is a lot different than writing a song.

Jimmy Webb emerged as a superstar songwriter and arranger in 1967 when two of his songs – The 5th Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away” and Glen Campbell’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” - were among the five nominees for the Grammy’s Song of the Year award. He went on to write a string of major hits for Campbell, including “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” "Where’s the Playground Susie,” “Honey Come Back,” and many others. Additionally, he penned “MacArthur Park,” which was a hit for a diverse range of artists, including Richard Harris, Waylon Jennings, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, and Donna Summer; “The Worst That Could Happen,” which was a Top 5 hit for The Brooklyn Bridge; “Didn’t We,” which was recorded by Thelma Houston, Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, and Barbra Streisand; “All I Know,” which became a Top 10 hit for Art Garfunkel; “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress,” which has been recorded by Joe Cocker, Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt, and Josh Groban; and “If These Walls Could Speak,” which was recorded by Glen Campbell, Amy Grant, Nanci Griffith, and Shawn Colvin.

Others who’ve covered material from the Jimmy Webb songbook include Diana Ross, Dusty Springfield, Nina Simone, The Four Tops, Roberta Flack, The Temptations, The Association, Tom Jones, Dionne Warwick, Cass Elliot, Harry Nilsson, Nancy Wilson, Cher, Bob Dylan, The Everly Brothers, Nick Cave, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Sheena Easton, David Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Michael Feinstein, R.E.M., Aimee Mann, America, Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, Peggy Lee, Bette Midler, James Taylor, Carrie Underwood, Dwight Yoakam, and The Highwaymen (consisting of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson), who took Jimmy’s song “Highwayman” to #1, earning him a Grammy for Country Song of the Year. As an artist, Jimmy has released more than a dozen albums, most recently 2013’s Still Within the Sound of My Voice, which features duets with guest artists such as Lyle Lovett, Carly Simon, Keith Urban, and Brian Wilson.

One of the most celebrated songwriters on the planet, Jimmy is the only individual to win Grammy awards for music, lyrics, and orchestration. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame. Additionally, he has received ASCAP’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Influential Songwriter Award from the National Music Publishers Association, and the Academy of Country Music’s prestigious Poets Award. In 2015 he was named among Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. Jimmy’s new memoir, The Cake and the Rain, details his formative years and early career through 1973. It’s available now from St. Martin’s Press. 


Songcraft's Jimmy Webb Playlist: Spotify users can select the song you'd like to hear below, or simply start the player and enjoy a collection of 20 of Jimmy's songs performed by other artists, followed by 20 additional tracks of Jimmy performing his own material. If you don't have a Spotify account, follow the prompts to sign up for free. Click this link to take you directly to the playlist in the Spotify web player.