Friday evening I had the distinct pleasure of seeing the legendary songwriter and performer Jimmy Webb. He has been a long time hero of mine, from being an Okie myself to his immense musical talent. He performed a small and intimate show at the Iridium in the heart of NYC.
He opened the show with “Wichita Lineman,” a song later recorded by his good friend Glen Campbell. He also performed the Campbell classic “Galveston” that he also penned. Webb went on to touch on every aspect of his career ending the show with a piano-driven, emotion-filled, and dramatic “MacArthur Park.” The show lasted a little over an hour.
Now Webb is not known as a vocal virtuoso, although he shouldn’t be sold short. He jokingly said he would hit specific notes the “next time,” yet that was never a problem. Every crack, riff, and perceived “mistake” just added to Webb’s brilliant narrative.
This show was not for entertainment value; it was a history lesson in Webb’s award-winning career, and the difference music makes. He told stories of those he had worked with from Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand to The Fifth Dimension and Glenn Campbell. It wasn’t just the stories; it was the way he told them. Through each narrative, Webb painted complete interactive pictures, down to the exact detail of what these legendary artists were wearing.
A real highlight was his time he worked with Frank Sinatra. Webb acknowledged all the negative words that have been written about who Sinatra was as a person, but he expressed stories of a different man. He told of the afternoons that he would sit and play for Sinatra in his New York apartment and the comments he would make over Webb’s compositions. He spoke about where Sinatra performed his pieces live and his experience as an audience member and the songwriter. This was just one of the many striking exchanges and relationships Webb has in is diverse and dignified career.
Although, the most profound moment of the night had nothing to do with stories of famed musicians or experiences, but of what music meant to Webb. He explained how the piano is his alter ego that he hides behind while explaining the universal meaning of music. In his words, it is the language of hearts and is something we need today.
Throughout the show I found myself laughing, on the verge of tears, and grabbing my chest because of Webb’s emotion. His presentation was profound in every sense from his pristine vocals and musical interpretation to the stories and wisdom he portrayed to his audience. Jimmy Webb represented what a real musician looks like
He is proof that a little music can change the world and that it will continue to do so, we just need to listen.