Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dad, this is what I want to do - the Power of a Dream

Glenn Campbell is a true super star of the music industry but this is a story about his partnership with Jimmy Webb.

In 1969 Campbell sold more records than The Beatles, a surge in popularity that came off the back of his TV show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour; and the same year he co-starred in True Grit with his friend John Wayne. ("My horse," Campbell recalls, "was frightened of his horse.").

Though his instinct for a song is uncanny - he says he wanted to record Jimmy Webb's By The Time I Get To Phoenix the moment he saw the title - he has never acquired the respect accorded to some other performers; perhaps because his songs were considered too middle-of-the-road for a pop audience, too country for the middle-of-the-road market, and too mainstream for country and western fans. He's written hit records, but sees himself predominantly as an interpreter of work by others, including Larry Weiss, who wrote Rhinestone Cowboy.

Often there is a bond between a performed and a song writer. Campbell says:

"I have had that kind of a bond," says Campbell, "with a man who has been like a brother to me: Jimmy Webb."

When Campbell's first hit, Turn Around, Look At Me, was released, Webb, 11 years his junior, was a 14-year-old living in Laverne, Oklahoma.

"I heard that song on the radio," Webb tells me, on the phone from his home in New York, "and 'I borrowed money from my dad. I had never bought a record before."

He played the single, as he recalls, to the point that his father, a Baptist preacher, implored him to stop. "I said, `Dad, this is what I want to do. I want to write songs like this one.'

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