Songwriter Jimmy Webb’s mammoth catalog of classic songs was mined by artists from multiple genres Wednesday night during “The Cake and the Rain,” an all-star celebration of Webb’s musical legacy that also served as a benefit concert, with proceeds donated to the Alzheimer’s Association and the I’ll Be Me Foundation in honor of longtime friend and fellow music icon Glen Campbell. Dwight Yoakam, Toby Keith, and Glen’s daughter Ashley Campbell were joined by pop trio (and Webb’s fellow Okies) Hanson, Amy Grant, Johnny Rivers, B.J. Thomas, Graham Nash, Judy Collins, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., Catherine Zeta-Jones, and more, with Yoakam unleashing a lugubrious, yet thoroughly soulful version of “Wichita Lineman,” a 1968 pop-country smash for Campbell.
Webb occasionally sat in on piano with the performers throughout the evening, including delivering a solo during Keith’s performance of the epic “MacArthur Park,” which was a pop hit for Richard Harris, a disco smash for Donna Summer and a Top Thirty country record for Waylon Jennings. Another of the performers was Johnny Rivers, who was integral to the Webb-Campbell connection and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” the first of Campbell’s hits penned by Webb. Rivers had recorded it in 1965 and, according to Webb, called producer/arranger to play a test pressing of the song for him for Glen to record.
“That song fit Glen like a glove,” Webb tells Rolling Stone Country. “It sounded like it had almost been written for him. In a sense I guess it was because I was such a fan and I had been enthralled with Glen since his record ‘Turn Around, Look at Me’ [in 1961] when I was 14 years old. I always wanted to write songs for him and I think subconsciously I was always writing songs for him.”
Hanson opened the evening with a brief performance of “Oklahoma Nights,” which Webb recorded with Vince Gill for a 2010 LP. The trio returned to the stage later for a harmony-soaked version of Webb’s “Highwayman,” which topped the country chart in 1985 for the titanic quartet of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson, who recorded as the Highwaymen.
Webb’s memoir, The Cake and the Rain, is out now and he penned four of the songs on the upcoming final LP by Glen Campbell, Adiós, including the touching title track which closes that record.