Glen Campbell & Jimmy Webb

It was a topsy-turvey summer for me, a fan of both the above.  The sad news was the death of Glen on 8th August after his well known battle with Altzheimers.  One of the greats of the 60’s his charming looks and voice stole the headlines, while he’d actually started his career in the cauldron of 60’s Los Angeles as a session guitarist in what became known as the Wrecking Crew.  Jimmy Webb was a writer well known to the Wrecking Crew, with his complex and haunting songs that makes him, in my mind at least, the last of the Great American Songbook writers, though I’m sure plenty would argue!  He wrote most of Glen’s greatest hits and many others – his songs have complex and subtle melodies, and his words are emotional, sometimes extreme and quirky. Here is a list of his ‘top ten’…

01. MacArthur Park – Donna Summer, 1978
02. Wichita Lineman – Glen Campbell, 1969
03. MacArthur Park – Richard Harris, 1968
04. Worst That Could Happen – Brooklyn Bridge, 1969
05. Galveston – Glen Campbell, 1969
06. Up, Up And Away – The Fifth Dimension, 1967
07. All I Know – Art Garfunkel, 1973
08. Honey Come Back – Glen Campbell, 1970
09. By The Time I Get To Phoenix – Glen Campbell, 1967
10. Where’s The Playground Susie – Glen Campbell, 1969

The good news was for me and others in Los Angeles who got to see Jimmy Webb at the Levitt Pavilion Pasadena on July 22nd this year, just over two weeks before Glen’s death. A solo gig, just him and a huge Steinway grand, and me sitting on the grass just 30 or 40 feet away from the great man.  He delivered a towering 2 hour show, featuring pretty much all of his hits.  He’s not the greatest singer technically, but in terms of delivery of emotion with a song, he’s right up there among the top acts (another one that springs to mind is Jimmy Scott, who actually has worse limitations but has a uniquely compelling live presentation).  Webb’s mastery of the piano is effortless and every song was beautifully accompanied.  He was very talkative between numbers, and let us into a lot of the secrets of the Wrecking Crew days, and how musicians would gather together and sing and play hits right there, in the studio, which ‘never happens now’.  And much reminiscing about Glen and some humerous talk about him being an ‘Orange County Conservative’ and wearing ‘pink golf pants’ – but the affection between the two was clear and the bond had remained strong – he had visited the ailing Glen at his care home in Nashville and let us know that he was being well cared for.

One of the truly magic musical moments happened at the end of the show. We thought it was all done and his faithful ‘Webb Heads’ were just hanging around. The PA had been turned off and then suddenly Jimmy came out, sat down at the piano and sang, just acoustically his song Adios, with us gently singing along. The picture below is of Jimmy earlier in the set singing with Florence from the 5th Dimension who happened to be in the audience that night…

jimmy-webb-levitt-Pasadena.jpg

As a tribute to Glen and also a token of appreciation the Jimmy I played Wichita Lineman, just here at home in Monrovia California…

 

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