After five decades of writing some of pop’s most iconic songs, Jimmy Webb is not showing signs of slowing down. The songwriter has become a book author, currently touring America to promote his just-released memoir, The Cake and The Rain, a title inspired by lyrics from the hit 1968 song he penned (and was first recorded by Richard Harris), “MacArthur Park.” We at Levitt know the song well—Webb has performed it twice (in 2013 and 2016) at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles, which sits in the very park that inspired the ballad!
Webb’s prolific career writing storytelling lyrics about the American experience has earned him the apt nickname of “America’s Songwriter,” with songs including the hits “Galveston” (1969) and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” (1967). You’ve likely heard one of the thousands of records that feature his songs, from some of the country’s biggest acts of the 20th century like Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Nina Simone, Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer.
To celebrate Webb’s legacy as he tours the country, here are five fun facts you might not have known about the living legend.
In 1961, at the age of 14, Webb bought his first record, a Glen Campbell single titled “Turn Around, Look At Me.”
Years later, Webb and the country icon became friends and longtime collaborators, producing hits and several albums together. Proceeds from next month’s Carnegie Hall concert celebrating Webb will benefit the Alzheimer’s Foundation in honor of Campbell, who is in the late stages of the disease.
“My Christmas Tree” (1966) by The Supremes was Webb’s first song recorded commercially.
Writing for one of history’s biggest Motown acts would be an impressive feat for anybody, let alone a 19-year-old Jimmy Webb!
Webb is the only artist ever to have received GRAMMY Awards for music, lyrics and orchestration.
The songwriter holds GRAMMYs for “Up, Up and Away” (1968), “MacArthur Park” (1969) and “Highwayman” (1986). Additionally, the former two songs were awarded GRAMMYs for performance—“Up, Up and Away” alone swept up six awards.
In 1986, Jimmy Webb became the youngest person ever inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at age 40.
Webb also served as its Chairman from 2010 to 2014, working to honor the contributions of songwriters and develop new talent.
Webb’s influence can be heard on recent and upcoming releases from Kanye West and Bruce Springsteen.
West sampled “Do What You Gotta Do” (1968), written by Webb and performed by Nina Simone, on his 2017 GRAMMY-nominated track “Famous” while Springsteen describes his forthcoming album as “more of a singer-songwriter record,” inspired by collaborations between Webb and Glen Campbell that contain rich instrumentation and “a lot of strings.”
Jimmy Webb’s significant contributions to the American music landscape have influenced artists of all genres over the span of five decades. Listen to the songwriting legend’s classic lyricism and infectious melodies with our Spotify playlist below.