Jimmy Webb

Jimmy Webb

Infobox Musical artist
Name = Jimmy Webb

Img_size = 220px
Background = solo_singer
Born = Elk City, Oklahoma US
birth date and age|1946|8|15
Instrument = vocals, piano
Genre = popular, country, rock
Occupation = singer, songwriter, composer
Years_active = 1966 – present
Label = Reprise, Asylum, Atlantic, Columbia

Jimmy Layne Webb is an American songwriter. From his initial success with "Up, Up, and Away," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," and "MacArthur Park" to his solo albums, Webb has had an influence on popular songwriting. His songs have been recorded or performed by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Bob Dylan, among others. According to BMI, his song "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" is the third most performed song in the last fifty years. [ [http://www.kbapps.com/lyrics50top.html BMI Top 50 Songs - Lyrics & Chords - KBápps.com ] ] He is the only artist to have ever received Grammy Awards for music, lyrics, and orchestration. [Jimmy Webb Official Website. http://www.jimmywebb.com]

Early life

Jimmy Layne Webb was born on August 15, 1946, in Elk City, Oklahoma. His father, Robert Lee Webb, was a Baptist minister and former member of the United States Marine Corps who presided over rural churches in southwestern Oklahoma and west Texas. With his mother's encouragement, Webb learned piano and organ and by the age of 12 was playing in the choir of his father's churches, accompanied by his father on guitar and his mother on accordion. Webb grew up in a conservative, religious home where his father restricted radio listening to country music and white gospel music. [Edmonds, Ben. "Jimmy Webb Biography." Musician Guide. http://www.musicianguide.com/]

During the late 1950s, Webb started writing songs, influenced by the church music he played, and also by some of the new music he heard, including Elvis Presley. In 1961, at the age of 14, he bought his first record, "Turn Around, Look at Me" by a young Glen Campbell. Webb was drawn to the singer's distinctive voice. [Shane, Ken. "Words and Music: Jimmy Webb." Thrive. Community Media, LLC, 2005. www.nycplus.com.]

In 1964, Webb and his family moved to Southern California, where Jimmy attended San Bernardino Valley College studying music. After his mother's death the following year, his father decided to return to Oklahoma, but Webb wanted to stay in California to continue his music studies and to pursue a career as a songwriter in Los Angeles. As father and son said goodbye in San Bernardino, the father said, "This songwriting thing is going to break your heart." Seeing that his son was determined to be a success, he gave his son $40. "It’s not much," he said, "but it's all I have." [Shane]

Early songwriting success

After transcribing other's music for a small music publisher, Webb was signed to a songwriting contract with Jobete Music, the publishing arm of Motown Records. The first commercial recording of a Jimmy Webb song was "My Christmas Tree," which appeared on "Merry Christmas, the Supremes", released in 1965. The following year, Webb met singer and producer Johnny Rivers, who signed Webb to a publishing deal and recorded Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" on his 1966 album "Changes".." [Jimmy Webb Discography. http://www.geocities.com/athens/oracle/7207/webb2.html]

In 1967, Johnny Rivers turned to Webb for songs for a new group Rivers was producing called the Fifth Dimension. Webb contributed five songs to the Fifth Dimension's album "Up, Up, and Away", which he arranged and conducted, as well as played keyboards. The song "Up, Up, and Away" was released as single in May 1967, and reached the Top Ten. The group's follow-up album "The Magic Garden", also released in 1967, was again arranged and conducted by Webb and contained all Jimmy Webb songs. [Jimmy Webb Discography.] In Novermber 1967, Glen Campbell released his version of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," which reached No. 26 and became an instant pop standard. [Edmonds]

At the 1967 Grammy Awards, "Up, Up and Away" was named Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The two Webb songs "Up, Up and Away" and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" received eight Grammy Awards. Webb's success as a new songwriter was unprecedented, and underscored what would become the central dilemma in his career. While his sophisticated melodies and orchestrations were embraced by mainstream audiences, his peers were embracing counterculture sounds. Jimmy Webb was quickly becoming out sync with his times. [Edmonds]

In 1968, "Time" acknowledged Webb’s range and proficiency when it referred to his string of hits, noting "Webb's gift for strong, varied rhythms, inventive structures, and rich, sometimes surprising harmonies." [Quoted on the Jimmy Webb Official Website. http://www.jimmywebb.com]

In 1968, the string of successful Jimmy Webb songs continued, with The Fifth Dimension's "Paper Cup" and "Carpet Man" reaching the Top 40, Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman" selling over a million copies, and Johnny Maestro & The Brooklyn Bridge scoring a gold record with "Worst That Could Happen." [Edmunds] Webb formed his own production and publishing company that year, Canopy, and scored a hit with its first project, an unlikely album with Irish actor Richard Harris singing all Jimmy Webb songs. One of the songs chosen, "MacArthur Park", was a long, complex song with multiple movements that was originally rejected by the group Association, who originally commissioned the work. Despite the song's seven minute, twenty-one second length, Webb released "MacArthur Park" as a single, and it quickly reached No. 2 on the singles chart. The album "A Tramp Shining" stayed on the charts for almost a year. Webb and Harris produced a followup album "The Yard Went on Forever", which was also successful. At the 1968 Grammy Awards, Webb accepted awards for "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and "MacArthur Park." [Edmonds]

In 1969, Glen Campbell continued the streak of Jimmy Webb hits with the gold record "Galveston" and "Where's the Playground Susie," quickly becoming the finest interpreter of Jimmy Webb songs. Webb and Campbell first met during the production of a General Motors commercial. Webb arrived at the recording session with his Beatle-length hair and approached the conservative singer, who looked up from his guitar and said, "Get a haircut." [Shane]

That same year, two Jimmy Webb songs became hits for the second time with Isaac Hayes's soulful version of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and Waylon Jennings's Grammy-winning country version of "MacArthur Park." Webb finished up the year by writing, arranging, and producing Thelma Houston's first album "Sunshower". [Jimmy Webb Discography.]

As the decade came to a close, so too did Jimmy Webb's string of hit singles. He began to withdraw from the formulaic process in which he worked and began to experiment. He started work on a semiautobiographical Broadway musical called "His Own Dark City", which reflected the emotional displacement he felt at the time. He also wrote music for the films "How Sweet It Is!" and "Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here". [Edmonds]

The singer-songwriter years

Jimmy Webb's solo career got off to a rough start with the 1968 "counterfeit" solo album "Jimmy Webb sings Jimmy Webb", which was produced, according to Webb, "by a bunch of ruffians from some old demos of mine and tarted up to sound like 'MacArthur Park.' It was quite a piece of crap and was received with great anticipation and crushing disappointment." ["Interview: Jimmy Webb" by Luke Torn. "Uncut". United Kingdom, 2004.]

Beginning in 1970, Jimmy Webb recorded six original albums of his own songs: "Words and Music" (1970), "" (1971), "Letters" (1972), "Land's End" (1974), "El Mirage" (1977), and "Angel Heart" (1982). Despite the critical reception that followed each of these projects, Webb would never prove to be as successful a performer as he had been a songwriter and arranger. Despite his limited singing ability, each album was noted for its inventive music and memorable lyrics. [Shane]

Webb's debut album as a performer, "Words and Music", was released in late 1970 to critical acclaim. "Rolling Stone" writer Jon Landau called "P.F. Sloan" a "masterpiece [that] could not be improved upon." Webb's 1971 follow up album "And So: On" proved equally appealing to the critics. "Rolling Stone" declared the album "another impressive step in the conspiracy to recover his identity from the housewives of America and rightfully install him at the forefront of contemporary composers/performers." His 1972 album "Letters" met with similar praise. Peter Reilly of "Stereo Review" wrote, "Jimmy Webb is the most important pop music figure to emerge since Bob Dylan." [Shane]

Throughout the 1970s, he lived in Encino, Los Angeles, California, fraternizing with Joni Mitchell and Harry Nilsson. "Campo de Encino" Webb's song chronicled his adventures and misadventures in his park-like hacienda. In 1974 Webb married Patsy Sullivan, a model - cover girl and youngest child of screen actor Barry Sullivan. The couple met posing for the cover of "Teen" when Ms. Sullivan was 12 years old. Patsy is featured with Jimmy on the cover of Webb's 1982 solo album "Angel Heart." They have five sons and a daughter together. Three of their sons later formed a rock band, "The Webb Brothers". The couple split after 22 years.

The serious composer

Throughout this period, Webb's songs continued to be recorded by the industry's most successful artists. In 1980, Thelma Houston recorded "Before There Could Be Me," "Breakwater Cat," "Gone," "Long Lasting Love," and "What Was that Song" on her album "Breakwater Cat". Leah Kunkel recorded "Never Gonna Lose My Dream of Love Again" and "Let's Begin" for her album "I Run with Trouble". The latter was performed live in 1980 by the born again Bob Dylan. Tanya Tucker recorded "Tennessee Woman" on her album "Dreamlovers". In 1981, Art Garfunkel recorded "Scissors Cut," "In Cars," and "That's All I've Got to Say" on his album "Scissors Cut". Arlo Guthrie recorded "Oklahoma Nights" on his album Power of Love. In 1982, Linda Ronstadt recorded "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" and "Easy for You to Say" on her album "Get Closer". Joe Cocker recorded "Just Like Always" on his album "Sheffield Steel". The Everly Brothers recorded "She Never Smiles Anymore" on the album "Living Legends".

From 1982 to 1992, Jimmy Webb turned his focus away from a solo performing career and toward larger-scale projects, such as film scores, Broadway musicals, and classical music. In 1982, he produced the soundtrack for the film "The Last Unicorn", an animated children's tale, with the musical group America performing Webb's songs. That same year, he composed the soundtrack to all episodes of the TV series "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers".

In 1985, Glen Campbell recorded "Cowboy Hall of Fame" and "Shattered" for the album "It's Just a Matter of Time". And heavyweights Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson recorded "Highwayman" on the album "Highwayman". In 1988, Toto recorded "Home of the Brave" on the album "The Seventh One". Kenny Rankin recorded the beautiful "She Moves, Eyes Follow" for the album "Hiding in Myself". And in 1989, Linda Ronstadt recorded the David Massengale produced album "Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind", which featured four Jimmy Webb songs: "Still Within the Sound of My Voice" (with Webb playing piano), "Adios" (with orchestral arrangement by Webb), "I Keep It Hid" (with Webb playing piano), and "Shattered." In 1990, John Denver recorded "Postcard from Paris" on the album "The Flower That Shattered the Stone". In 1991, Kenny Rogers recorded "They Just Don't Make Em Like You Anymore" on the album "Back Home Again".

In 1986, Webb produced a remarkable cantata that many feel to be his masterpiece, "The Animal's Christmas", with Art Garfunkel, Amy Grant, and the London Symphony Orchestra. With brilliant harmonies, innovative orchestration, and excellent vocal performances, Webb tells the Christmas story from the perspective of the animals.

In 1987, Webb produced the soundtrack for the film "The Hanoi Hilton". That same year, Webb reunited with his old partner Glen Campbell for the album "Still Within the Sound of My Voice", for which he wrote the brilliant title song. They followed this up in 1988 with an album comprised almost entirely of Jimmy Webb songs, "Light Years". The album produced such Webb standards as "Lightning in a Bottle," "If These Walls Could Speak" (which would be recorded by Amy Grant that same year), the title song "Light Years," and "Our Movie." Two songs from 1982's "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" also appear on the album.The ret which included the songs "Other People's Lives," "Wasn't There A Moment," "What Does A Woman See In A Man," "I Don't Know How To Love You Anymore," and "Is There Love After You." Several of these would later end up on Webb's later solo albums.

By 1992, Jimmy Webb had accomplished much, but there there remained some unfinished business about his performing career. That year, he performed live at the club Cinegrill, introducing several new songs including "What Does A Woman See in a Man," "Sandy Cove," and an old folk hymn, "I Will Arise."

Later life

Between 1992 and 2005, Jimmy Webb produced three critically acclaimed solo albums: "Suspending Disbelief" (1993), "Ten Easy Pieces" (1996), and "Twilight of the Renegades" (2005). He has continued to expand his musical landscape to include musicals, commercial jingles, and film scores. More recently, he has written music for television, including the show "ER".

In 1998, his book "Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting" was published after several years in the making. It was well received by songwriters and performers. Today he is considered among the finest songwriters of his generation, and is frequently compared to legendary songsmiths George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Burt Bacharach (whom Webb credits as one of his strongest musical influences).

In recent years, Webb has talked more openly about his return to the Christian faith of his upbringing and the role it has played in his music. In addition to his beautiful cantata, "The Animals' Christmas", he has always included religious songs in his albums — "Psalm One-Five-O," "Jeruselem," and "I Will Arise" are a few examples — and his lyrics have always included Biblical verses and allusions. References such as "pearls before the swine" and "turning water into wine" are not put there for effect, but rather they are part of who Webb is as a writer. In an October 2007 interview with Nigel Bovey, editor of The Salvation Army newspaper "The War Cry", Webb was quite explicit about his renewed faith.

Webb's form of faith is not tied to any one denomination, but rather is focused on the spiritual essence of Christanity. "I am a strong believer in God." He has stated. "God is important to me. God is bigger than any one particular denomination. I don't like it when people try to confine Him. I don't put any limits on God." Webb reads the King James Version of the Bible. [Bovey]

Webb continues to give live performances in the United States and abroad, and recently released a live album of his show, "Live and at Large", which was recorded in the United Kingdom.

Honors and awards

* National Academy of Popular Music Songwriter’s Hall of Fame inductee (1986)
* Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame inductee (1990)
* National Academy of Songwriters Lifetime Achievement Award (1993)
* Oklahoma Hall of Fame inductee (1999)
* Songwriters' Hall of Fame Board of Directors member (2000)
* ASCAP Board of Directors member (currently)


Original albums

* 2007 "Live and at Large"
* 2005 "Twilight of the Renegades"
* 1996 "Ten Easy Pieces"
* 1993 "Suspending Disbelief"
* 1982 "Angel Heart"
* 1977 "El Mirage"
* 1974 "Land's End"
* 1972 "Letters"
* 1971 ""
* 1970 "Words and Music"
* 1968 "Jim Webb sings Jim Webb"

Albums of Jimmy Webb songs

* 2003 "Only One Life: The Songs of Jimmy Webb" (Michael Feinstein)
* 2003 "Tunesmith: The Songs of Jimmy Webb"
* 2001 "" [Remastered] (Glen Campbell)
* 1999 "Glen Campbell Reunited with Jimmy Webb" (Glen Campbell)
* 1998 "And Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain..."
* 1998 "The Last Unicorn [Das Letzte Einhorn] "
* 1988 "Light Years" (Glen Campbell)
* 1989 "Still Within the Sound of My Voice" (Linda Ronstadt)
* 1986 "The Animal's Christmas" (Art Garfunkel and Amy Grant)
* 1977 "Watermark" (Art Garfunkel)
* 1972 "The Supremes: Produced and Arranged by Jimmy Webb" (The Supremes)
* 1969 "Sunshower" (Thelma Houston)
* 1968 "The Yard Went on Forever" (Richard Harris)
* 1968 "A Tramp Shining" (Richard Harris)
* 1967 "The Magic Garden" (The Fifth Dimension)
* 1966 "Up, Up, and Away" (The Fifth Dimension)


* 2005 "Archive & Live" (including "Live at the Royal Albert Hall", from 1972)
* 2004 "The Moon's A Harsh Mistress: Jimmy Webb in the Seventies" (a limited edition boxed set including Webb's albums from the 1970s, bonus tracks, and "Live at the Royal Albert Hall", from 1972)
* 1994 "Archive"


* "" (2008) - "Fallow Way"


* List of songs by Jimmy Webb


External links

* [http://www.jimmywebb.com Jimmy Webb Official Website]
*allmusicguide | id = 11:2d67gjyrj6in | label = Jimmy Webb
* [http://www1.salvationarmy.org.uk/uki/www_uki.nsf/vw-issue/694ED1D874F297CF8025738400566720?opendocument&id=EC2F013FFDC3253E80257384005388A7 Jimmy Webb Interview with Nigel Bovey, The Salvation Army newpspaper "The War Cry"]

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