Thursday May 11, 2017

'Don't do what I did': songwriter Jimmy Webb on Elvis, the Devil and 'MacArthur Park'

Songwriter Jimmy Webb's new memoir, The Cake and the Rain: A Memoir, was published on April 18, 2017.

Songwriter Jimmy Webb's new memoir, The Cake and the Rain: A Memoir, was published on April 18, 2017. (Henry Diltz)

Listen 19:30

At the back of Jimmy Webb's new book, The Cake and the Rain (out now), there's an appendix. At the top of the page, it says: "Artists who have performed or recorded Jimmy Webb songs." And what follows is an alphabetical list that spans 12 pages.

There are names like Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, R.E.M., Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, just to name a few. Webb has also recorded dozens of his own albums and songs for films and musicals. When you tell the story of popular music, Webb's name isn't a footnote — it's a whole chapter. But his personal story is less-known.

Today on the show, Webb speaks to Tom Power about his upbringing as the son of a preacher, how he felt like a "wallflower" while working alongside music's biggest names and his experiences hanging out with Elvis Presley. 

— Produced by Chris Trowbridge