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jimmy webb

Jimmy Webb and Richard Harris

richard harris and jimmy webb

b. Jimmy Layne Webb, 15th August 1946, Elk City, Oklahoma, U.S.A.

Jimmy Webb is a singer and songwriter, whose inclusion at this website is a tribute to the man's contributions within the field of Black Music.

He is a remarkable songwriter, whose career has spanned the last half century, where his writings have been in demand by performers as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Richard Harris and Nina Simone.

Lyrically, texts such as 'someone left the cake out in the rain, and I don't think that I can take it', verge on the ridiculous, however, in the hands of Jimmy, they somehow function beautifully.

Jimmy Webb has composed and arranged some of the most familiar songs in popular music.

'Up, Up and Away' (for the Fifth Dimension amongst others), 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix' (for Isaac Hayes amongst others...a song that the BMI state is the third most played song across the last 70 years), 'Wichita Lineman' (for Glen Campbell and Kool and the Gang amongst others), "Galveston", 'The Worst That Could Happen' (for Brooklyn Bridge amongst others), 'When Can Brown Begin' (for Scott Walker, the Supremes amongst others), 'This Is Your Life' (for Thelma Houston, Norman Connors amongst others), 'Didn't We' (for Dionne Warwick amongst others), and 'MacArthur Park' (for Richard Harris, Dionne Warwick, the Four Tops amongst others).

Other artists who have recorded Jimmy's writings include, Johnny Maestro, Kerrie Biddell, The Love Generation, Peggy Lipton, Ian Matthews, Mel Torme, Strawberry Children, Hugo Montenegro, Revelation, Mark Lindsay, The Fortunes, Picardy, The Bystanders, Johnny Rivers, Ray Charles, The Mystic Moods Orchestra, Judy Collins, Art Garfunkel, Meg Christian, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, R.E.M., Swing Out Sister and Chet Atkins, amongst others.

Jimmy had an interesting childhood.

His father was a Baptist minister and ex marine, whilst his mother encouraged Jimmy to learn the piano and the organ.

Jimmy was competent with the instrument by the age of 12 and began playing the instrument within his father's churches, with his parents joining in on the guitar and accordion.

In the family home, many of the musical influences were Country music and Gospel based.

With these musical roots, Jimmy began writing his own material.

By 1961, Jimmy was buying his own records, (an early tune being a 45 by a certain Glen Campbell, whom he was later to collaborate regularly with. Jimmy liked his voice.).

When he was 17, the family relocated to California, where Jimmy attended San Bernardino Valley College studying music.

His mother passed away in 1965, prompting his father to return to Oklahoma, leaving Jimmy in California to continue his musical studies.

Jimmy, subsequently signed a contract with Jobete Music, the publishing branch of Motown Records.

One of the first fruits of his labours came with a Christmas tune for the Supremes, entitled 'My Christmas Tree'.

He then met the singer and producer Johnny Rivers, who recorded another Jimmy Webb tune entitled 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix' (released on Johnny's album 'Changes' in 1966).

Fifth Dimension

the fifth dimension

Johnny asked Jimmy to write some songs for a group he was working with called the 5th Dimension.

He penned 5 tracks for their album, including the single 'Up, Up and Away' which reached the Top Ten.

In 1967, Glen Campbell released his version of 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix', which became the definitive version of the tune, reaching number 26 on the charts.Glen also charted with a Jimmy Webb standard, 'Witchita Lineman' a year later, resulting a long standing association between the duo.

During this period, Jimmy had shifted onto another level regarding his writings, leaving the formulaic template of the era in his wake.

In 1968 Jimmy formed his own production and publishing company entitled Canopy.

After the label had been instigated, he, surprisingly, collaborated with the Irish actor, Richard Harris, the resulting fruits of which saw 'MacArthur Park' becoming a national chart hit, reaching number 2.

Jim Webb

The song was originally rejected by the group the Association, however, was later covered by Dionne Warwick, the Four Tops and Donna Summer.

By the end of the Sixties, Jimmy had become a hugely in demand songwriter and arranger.

In 1969, Glen Campbell charted with 'Galveston' and 'Where's the Playground Susie'.

He charted again with the Isaac Hayes, soulful version of 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix' and the more Country flavoured Waylon Jennings version of 'MacArthur Park'.

In 1969, Jimmy then penned, what was to become, a benchmark album for Soul fans, namely Thelma Houston's debut album, 'Sunshower'.

The album contained, what have come to be recognised as many classics of the genre, including 'This Is Your Life', 'This Is Where I Came In', 'Mixed Up Girl', 'Someone Is Standing Outside' and 'Everybody Gets To Go To The Moon'.

Jimmy the penned a couple of movie soundtracks including 'How Sweet It Is!' and 'Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here'.At the turn of the decade, Jimmy penned several solo albums, including 'Words and Music' (in 1970), 'And So: On' (in 1971), 'Letters' (in 1972), 'Land's End' (in 1974), 'El Mirage' (in 1977), and 'Angel Heart' (in 1982).

With The Supremes

with the supremes

In 1972, Jimmy collaborated again with the Supremes on an album entitled simply 'The Supremes Produced And Arranged By Jimmy Webb'.

The album contained the groups version of the Scott Walker tune 'When Can Brown Begin'.

During the Seventies, Jimmy lived in Encino, Los Angeles, California, becoming friends with fellow songwriters Joni Mitchell and Harry Nilsson.

In 1974, Jimmy married the model and daughter of the actor Barry Sullivan, Patsy Sullivan.

The couple have five sons and a daughter together, (four of their sons later forming a rock band called The Webb Brothers).

Jimmy wrote for many artists through the Seventies and Eighties, including Art Garfunkel.

Thelma Houston worked with Jimmy again, recording the songs 'Before There Could Be Me', 'Breakwater Cat', 'Gone', 'Long Lasting Love', and 'What Was that Song' for her album 'Breakwater Cat'.

During the Eighties, 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', and The Everly Brothers recorded 'She Never Smiles Anymore' on the album 'Living Legends'.

In 1987, Jimmy produced the soundtrack for the film 'The Hanoi Hilton', and worked again with Glen Campbell for the album 'Still Within the Sound of My Voice', for which he wrote the title song.

During the Nineties, he performed live at the club Cinegrill, showcasing several new songs, including 'What Does a Woman See in a Man' and 'Sandy Cove' and worked with Nanci Griffith penning the song 'If These Old Walls Could Speak' to the AIDS benefit album 'Red Hot + Country'.

He also released three solo albums, namely 'Suspending Disbelief' (in 1993), 'Ten Easy Pieces' (in 1996), and 'Twilight of the Renegades' (in 2005).

In recent years, Jimmy has written music for the television show 'E/R'.

In 1998, he published his book 'Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting'.

In 2004, Jimmy remarried, this time to Laura Savini, and settled on the North Shore of Long Island.

Jimmy Webb

All told, Jimmy Webb is, rightly, favourably compared to many of the great songwriters of the last century.

These would include George Gershwin, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, Richard Rodgers, Lamont Dozier, Stevie Wonder, Cole Porter, Lennon & McCartney, Goffin and King, Barry Mann, John Barry and Burt Bacharach.

Jim Webb produced, written or arranged collaborations:

The Fifth DimensionThelma Houston

the 5th dimension up up and away / thelma houston - sunshower

Dionne WarwickDusty Springfield

dionne warwick - macarthur park / dusty springfield - mixed up girl

Isaac HayesCheryl Barnes

isaac hayes - by the time i get to phoenix / cheryl barnes - everybody wants to go to the moon

Kool And The GangNancy Wilson

kool and the gang - witchita lineman / nancy wilson - this time last summer

Norman ConnorsNina Simone

norman connors - this is your life / nina simone - do what you gotta do

Patti AustinRay Charles

patti austin - someone is standing outside / ray charles - I keep it hid

Scott WalkerThe Supremes

scott walker / the supremes - when can brown begin

Thelma Houston

jimmy webb and thelma houston

Real Player


Jim Webb Sings Jim Webb (Epic Records 1968)

Words and Music (Reprise Records 1970)

And So: On (Collectors Choice Records 1971)

Letters (Collectors Choice Records 1972)

Land's End (Elektra Records 1974)

El Mirage (Collectors Choice Records 1977)

Angel Heart (Sony Records 1982)

Suspending Disbelief (Elektra Records 1993)

Ten Easy Pieces (Guardian Records 1996)

Last Unicorn (Virgin Records 1998)

Twilight Of The Renegades (Sanctuary Records 2005)

Live And At Large (CD Baby Records 2007)

Just Across The River (Koch Records 2010)

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