Here is how Jimmy Webb's website begins, and it would be hard to say much more that's meaningful about his feelings on the whole deal. It's a quote from his book,
"Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting":
At the heart of the struggle has been the fact that logic, instinct and experience indicate that much of the material presented is useless for the following reasons:
Inspiration comes from the guts.
Technique is a personal and very private conceit.
Creativity as a concept is perhaps not well understood by the people who practice it most successfully.
Then the website begins to play a snippet of Webb singing the intro to Wichita Lineman
. I know some of you readers want to downplay this as pabulum
music for old farts, but I can tell you that chillbumps
are not negotiable. I get them when I hear Hollow
by A Perfect Circle
. I get them when I hear Freak
. I get them when I hear Everlong
by the Foo Fighters
. And I get them when I hear almost any song from Jimmy Webb.
Glen Campbell (a good ol' boy from somewhere around here) made a career out of singing songs by Jimmy Webb in a voice that Webb would have loved to own. The biggest money makers were the "Lineman" song, Galveston (which is a great male vocal version of what ABBA was doing with those girls), and the biggest one of them all, By the Time I Get to Phoenix. You should learn "Phoenix" on the guitar one day and see just how easy it is to put together a masterpiece if you've got the simple tools of wit and melody.
Webb is from the same general area as Campbell. He's the son of a preacher in Oklahoma. Some of his lesser known money makers are The Worst That Could Happen by the Brooklyn Bridge and The Highwayman by Kris Kristofferson and that rag tag bunch.
My favorite work by Jimmy Webb is what he did with the drunken Sir Richard Harris when he spun MacArthur Park into two albums, A Tramp Shining (what a marvelous concept for all us tarnished hard-drinking fools of love with hearts of gold and consciouses of pudding and hands like Parkinsonian jackhammers) and The Yard Went On Forever.
And she would stand, amidst her understanding
And ask the children what they'd done at school that day
And the yard went on forever.....
These two are sometimes sold as a double album called Webb Sessions 1968-69
I know a wonderful songwriter who wishes he could sing. It's his curse to be a wizard with the pen but a kludge with the pipes. Jimmy's not really that bad. He'll put on a show for you and do a good halfass job of rendering these tunes. But I'd stick with the pros' versions, if I were you.