American singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb recounted his relationship and breakup with Susie Horton through a song called “MacArthur Park” in 1967. This park in Los Angeles had once offered Webb and Horton a place to have lunch and spend time together. The couple had created many wonderful memories in that park but only to end in a breakup. Accordingly, Horton married another man. Despite the breakup, the two remained good friends.
Apparently, Webb drew inspiration from his desperate state to write the song “MacArthur Park.” The composition of the song happened in two seasons, particularly in the summer and fall of 1967. Record producer Bones Howe had once asked Webb to write a pop song with additional specifications. That must include classical elements in it, with varying movements as well as time signatures. The song was originally intended to be recorded by The Association, an American sunshine pop band. Howe served as the band’s producer of their recordings. Unfortunately, the group had turned the song down.
The Irish actor and singer Richard Harris was the first to record Webb’s “MacArthur Park.” Perhaps, the song was meant for him. The Association’s rejection of it offered Harris the opportunity to record and turn the song into a successful hit. The song charted in various music lists while becoming a top hit in Europe and Australia. Aside from its chart performances, the single also won a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) in 1969.
A decade Harris first recorded the song, Donna Summer made a cover of it. Her version went No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 in 1978. It’s an indication of the song’s strong appeal to the music market reaching another milestone anew. Additionally, her cover earned Summer a nomination for Grammy Award’s Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. It was Summer’s first-ever Grammy nomination. Below is a live performance of the song by Summer.
In between those highly successful pop versions of “MacArthur Park” was an acclaimed country cover. The outlaw country star Waylon Jennings recorded a countrified interpretation of the song in 1969. That’s only a year after the song’s original record by Harris came out. Jennings’ version appeared on his album entitled Country-Folk. It reached No. 23 on Hot Country Songs chart while peaking at No. 93 on the pop chart. Interestingly, Jennings’ cover also won a Grammy Award in 1969 just like Harris’. Specifically, the song gave Jennings the Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with a Vocal title. Listen to his rendition of “MacArthur Park” below.
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Jimmy Webb, MacArthur Park, Waylon Jennings