I just returned from seeing Jimmy Webb and Judy Collins in concert and came away with two vastly different views. For those of you not familiar with Jimmy Webb, he is the songwriter and author of such great Glenn Campbell songs as “Galveston” “Whichita Lineman” and “By the Time I get to Phoenix.” He also wrote “Up, Up and Away” for the Fifth Dimension which he won a grammy for and also did “MacArthur Park” for Richard Harris. Jimmy performed all of these songs and told interesting and humorous stories about his life in song writing along the way. My wife and I had a chance to meet and chat with him after the show, but more on that later.
Jimmy grew up in Oklahoma where his father was an ex marine having served 35 years in the corps and later became a baptist minister and is still around today at age 90. Jimmy told about meeting Glenn Campbell for the first time and said although their politics are on opposite ends of the spectrum it’s music that brings people together and not politics. He said Glenn is a terrific person and he would not be where he was today if not for Glenn. Jimmy also commended Glenn on his brave fight with alzheimers and for continuing to tour with it. He also thanked the military folks and their families in the audience for their brave service to country.
Jimmy played beautifully on the large Steinway piano the theater provided for him and thanked the theater for supplying it for him. He told a humorous story about when he got a grammy for Up,Up and Away which was based on a balloon he built after getting his ballonist license and pilot’s license. He said KOMA, the largest radio station in the country out of Oklahoma at the time was playing it and suddenly they stopped saying it was about drugs. Jimmy called his father from Calif. and he said his dad rushed over to the station and must have given them one of his tough marine/baptist minister speeches because they suddenly started playing it again, “Everyone should have a dad like that,” he said smiling.
Jimmy told about meeting Richard Harris in Ireland and England and hitting the pubs with him in every village they came upon. Jimmy wrote MacArthur Park for Richard Harris and performed it as his finale last night. He played an extended version of it and hitting the keys with finess and so much power that it sounded like several pianos were playing at once instead of just one. It literally brought the house down.
After Jimmy’s set, Judy Collins came on and she was much different. This is the fourth or fifth time we’ve seen her in person and we usually take in her Christmas shows. She usually comes out singing upbeat carols such as Joy to the World, Jingle Bells and Hark the Herald Angels Sing and does several folksy songs and her signature song ‘Both Sides Now.” But none of this was there this night. Instead she opted for more somber, long, heavily worded songs that I never heard of that appeared to be reflective on life. Her voice is still one of the most angelic, melodious high pitched voices I have ever heard and she can really hit those high notes and hold them, but the songs I felt were very depressing. There were a few light moments when she sang the hit song from the 40’s “Where or When” which she did beautifully saying her father used to work at a radio station and bring records home and sing along with them. She also did a nice rendition of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” from when she listened to country records growing up. That’s a favorite of mine too, but she went into totally new songs that were heavily worded and unusual about reflecting on life in general that I never heard and could not get into. She ended her set with a song she did last year about her mother who recently died called “She’s a Lady” and tells about her mom always being a lady even unto death and tells about Judy being by her bedside when she died. It’s a real, real, tearjerker and the man sitting next to me was wiping away tears and sniffing. She then went into “Send in the Clowns” and ended with the Beatles “In My life.” Although her voice is clear as a bell, very angelic and melodious, I just felt very down after this set and felt she should have ended on a more upbeat and positive note especially this time of year. Perhaps she’s reflecting on her own mortality and life now that she’s 72. She looks great and has amazing posture when playing the piano or standing with her guitar and shapely legs in tight fitting pants.
After the concert my wife and I were one of the last ones to leave and we stopped by to see Jimmy Webb in the lobby who was selling his latest cd there. We chatted for a while as he signed his cd for us and shook his hand and I found him to be very out going, sincere and friendly and very upbeat and affable. He has that mid-western Oklahoma charm about him.