October 6, 2005

Jimmy Webb

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Of course I don’t like Glen Campbell! He earned the honor of the Grizzliest Mug Shot Ever a few years ago when he was arrested for drunk driving as well as hit-and-run charges, but that was perhaps his only independent achievement. When Glen Campbell tries to accomplish other things by himself, he creates “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

But when he teamed up with a songwriter named Jimmy Webb, the results were devastating, in a good way. I would have directly used Webb as the subject of this article, giving him the photo to the right, but he’s kind of weird looking and let’s face it, Glen Campbell does have one hell of a smile.

When a songwriter teams up with a singer and creates something magical, it’s always difficult to conclude who deserves the credit for the manifestation of that magic. For instance, so many of Burt Bacharach’s classic songs from the ’60s were sung by Dionne Warwick. Without her voice and interpretation of his material, would the sophisticated pop of “Anyone Who Had a Heart” have worked so well?

Moreover, without Hal David to write the lyrics to Bacharach’s compositions, would the tempo changes and musical peaks of the song seemed as dramatic?

And then there’s the producer’s role in the creative process. Fionna Apple’s newly released Extraordinary Machine, was produced by Mike Elizondo, known best for his work with Eminem and 50 Cent. This album has quite a different feel in tone and atmosphere than the version of Extraordinary Machine we all chiseled from her a few months ago that was produced by Jon Brion. In the end, there are usually so many artists behind the final product of even a single song that it could be impossible to identify who is responsible for a musical piece’s success.

So the poignancy of songs such as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Galveston” and “Wichita Lineman” is probably the result of the dynamic between Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb. On “Wichita Lineman,” for example, Campbell’s delivery of the couplet “And I need you more than want you / And I want you for all time” is heartbreaking, in a good way. And then there’s Webb’s organ, which follows the chorus to help Campbell reach his mysterious emotional destination.

Archived article by Jared Wolfe
Sun Staff Writer