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Extraordinary things, courtesy of Jimmy Webb

Anyone who listened in on my Pandora choices would think I'm very odd. They might even take notice of how I often choose songs written by Jimmy Webb.

Webb grew up in Oklahoma where his father was a rural minister. He was expected to accompany his father musically so he was given piano lessons. We're fortunate he liked piano and later began writing new lyrics to what he considered boring Baptist hymns.

Later, the family moved to California, where the teenage Webb entered college to study music. Upon his mother's death, his father decided to return to Oklahoma but Webb had already decided upon his career. He would later recall his father warning him about his musical aspirations, saying, "This songwriting thing is going to break your heart." Seeing that his son was determined, he gave him $40. He told Jimmy "It's not much, but it's all I have."

It appears that $40 went a long way back then.

The primary reason for my fascination with Webb's music is that he turns the ordinary into the surreal. I heard the song Wichita Lineman when I was around five. I remember this as I remembered the ugly little radio that was in the kitchen of our home in Mesquite. 

Why did a blue-collar worker hear his love's voice through the power lines he spent his days repairing? Webb had an almost-surreal talent to write about ordinary people thinking extraordinary things. 

Another favorite of mine is The Highwayman. It appeals greatly to my hidden romantic side. I would have liked to meet every character described.

I decided to see if Webb talked about his inspiration for this song, and like some of the rare fiction I've written, its origin was dream:

“I had an old brace of pistols in my belt and I was riding hell-bent for leather down country roads, with sweat pouring off of my body. I was terrified because I was being pursued by police, who were on the verge of shooting me. It was very real. Without even thinking about it, I stumbled out of bed to the piano and started playing "Highwayman”. Within a couple of hours, I had the first verse."

 One half-exception is the song MacArthur Park. It's just a bit too weird for me, even though Webb eventually gave up attempting to explain the storyline, saying instead "just think of it as an expressionist painting."  And Richard Harris cannot sing. He should have taken the Rex Harrison route*. 

* Before filming My Fair Lady, Rex Harrison was enrolled in a singing class. However, his vocal range turned out to encompass exactly three notes; therefore he talked his way through his musical numbers. Which worked well, in my opinion. 

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