Once upon a time when songwriting was an art form Jimmy Webb was one of songwriting’s greatest sculptors. His songs defy time and have become a soundtrack for generations.
Watching Jimmy Webb in concert is a rare priviledge. You are in a room with a man who made history and is sitting around to tell you about it. Jimmy’s stories between the songs are as great as the songs themselves.
It is hard to fathom someone at the age of 19 today writing a masterpiece as good as ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’. Jimmy Webb was that old when he wrote that song.
Bob Dylan was a contemporary of his at the time. “He would write “You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat, who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat” and was called a genius. I got criticised for the cake in the rain,” he said.
The songwriting legend also tore into The Grammy Awards. Jimmy’s 1967 Johnny Rivers, then Nina Simone song, ‘Do What You Gotta Do’ was used by Kanye West as the foundation for his song ‘Famous’. Jimmy had one third of the publishing despite the song credited to a dozen writers. The song won a Grammy. Jimmy wasn’t even mentioned at the awards. “If you want to watch the Grammys, watch the Grammys but the Grammys don’t mean a damn thing anymore,” he told the audience. “Kanye thought Nina Simone wrote it”. He then played the original, ‘Do What You Gonna Do’.
Every song is a story. Jimmy’s Glen Campbell hit ‘Galveston’ was about the Vietnam war. He said Art Garfunkel’s ‘All I Know’ was created in the solitude of a Holiday Inn lockup.
The most telling of his stories was about his friend Glen Campbell who is now in his final stages of Alzheimier’s. He first witnessed Glen’s condition in 2012 when Glen asked him if he wrote ‘Wichita Lineman’. Glen is now being cared for at a memory care centre in Nashville.
Imagine if you could sit in a room with Beethoven or Mozart and they told you their stories while they played you their music. That is what this show is. Mind you, Jimmy hated being compared to Mozart and so he should. Mozart was a lousy lyricist.
Jimmy Webb setlist, Melbourne, 27 June 2017
Highwayman (from Glen Campbell’s Highwayman, 1979 and The Highwaymen, 1984)
Galveston (from Glen Campbell’s ‘Galveston, 1967)
All I Know (from Art Garfunkel’s Angel Clare, 1972)
Do What You Gotta Do (from Johnny Rivers, Rewind, 1967, Nina Simone, ‘Nuff Said, 1968)
Up Up and Away (from The 5th Dimension, Up Yup & Away, 1967)
By The Time I Get To Phoenix (from Glen Campbell’s ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix, 1967)
The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress (from Joe Cocker, I Can Stand A Little Rain, 1974 and Glen Campbell, Reunion, 1974)
Just Like Always (from Glen Campbell Adios, 2017)
Wichita Lineman (from Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman, 1968)
Macarthur Park (from Richard Harris, A Tramp Shining, 1968)
Adios (from Glen Campbell Adios, 2017)
Jimmy Webb remaining dates
June 29, Sydney, City Recital Hall
July 1, Perth, State Theatre Centre