Jimmy Webb’s Favorite Jimmy Webb Covers

Jimmy Webb (Photo by Jessica Daschner)

In Jimmy Webb’s new memoir, The Cake and The Rain, nearly a dozen pages in the back contain a partial list of all the artists who have ever recorded one of his songs. Of the hundreds of covers that have come down the pike, these are the Long Island resident’s favorites.

Frank Sinatra “Didn’t We” (1969)

“I always imagined Sinatra singing ‘Didn’t We.’ When I actually heard [his version], it was like a dream becoming fact. I had always heard it in a way in my head. As I recall, I think it was a Don Costa arrangement and he was one of my idols and he did a fantastic job on it. If I was really candid, when I heard Frank Sinatra sing ‘Didn’t We,’ I knew my name was in the history books.”

Judy Collins “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” (1975)

“This is the first version of that song. [What I love is] her crystal wineglass voice and the string arrangement by the late, great Arif Mardin, who was capable of so much musically that I invite the listener to go back and review that song that’s arranged by the beautiful cello lines. It was just a fleet entity and a beautifully realized version of a song.”

Donna Summer “MacArthur Park” (1978)

“It was the only number one I ever had. She had great pipes and I was never an aficionado of disco. I really didn’t go to clubs. But I thought it was a tremendously energetic record and that she did a great job. She really hit that note with all the authority in the world. I thought she gave it a little more substance and brought something to it, which is a very important thing for a songwriter.”

Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson “The Highwayman” (1985)

“I think it was an inspired choice for them. Four guys singing four verses that describe four different kinds of almost fictional characters. It was beautifully produced and just an inspired choice from an A&R point of view. That I need to thank Glen Campbell for that because he actually took the song into the studio and played it for those guys. It was a milestone in my career and it was a number one country video that year and it just really gave me a transfusion when I badly needed it.”

Linda Ronstadt “Adios” (1989)

“This is a song I wrote when I left California and came East [back in the 1980s] over 20 years ago. She took it into the studio and did all the backgrounds with Brian Wilson and how could I have dreamed that this song that I was going to write about California, “Our dreams of endless summer were just so grandiose/Adios, adios.” It’s probably the saddest song that’s ever been written about the whole California myth and what we were all after. The song is very special to me and to have Brian go in and do just this grand eloquent Beach Boys arrangement behind that song with Miss California singing the leads, it just makes it a perfect record in my mind.”

For a full feature on Jimmy Webb, see Jimmy Webb: A Life Lived In New Memoir

Jimmy Webb: A Life Lived In New Memoir

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