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Listen To Waylon Jennings And The Kimberlys’ Grammy-Winning Cover Version of Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park”

Waylon Jennings + MacArthur Park
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In 1969, country legend Waylon Jennings released his rendition of the Jimmy Webb-penned track “MacArthur Park,” featuring the family quartet, the Kimberlys. The song, which he included in his album Country-Folk, earned a string of successes: charting at number 23 on Hot Country Songs, grabbing a spot on the Hot 100 (at 93), and gaining the singer a Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. 

This achievement came in after he scored back-to-back Top 10 hits in the late ‘60s – “The Chokin’ Kind” (1967) and “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line” (1968) – and further cemented his status as hellraiser in the genre. 

But he wasn’t the first to make the song big. “MacArthur Park,” which was originally intended (and rejected) for The Association, was first recorded by Richard Harris in 1968. And his version nabbed the runner-up position on the Hot 100 chart. Donna Summer’s disco arrangement also charted on the Hot 100, peaking at the top spot. 

Meaning Behind the Song

People thought it was a psychedelic trip with the lyrics, “Someone left the cake out in the rain/ I don’t think that I can take it/ ‘Cause it took so long to bake it/ And I’ll never have that recipe again.” But it really wasn’t. “Everything in the song is real,” Webb shared in an interview with Dave Simpson of The Guardian. 

The title was named after the park in Los Angeles near where his girlfriend used to work selling life insurance. And they’d meet there for lunch, and old men would be there playing checkers by the trees. When they broke up, he poured all the hurt into a seven-minute-long song. And he knew the girl who inspired it would know what it meant. 

Let’s break it down.

In the first verse, Webb opens with a picture of getting left behind, singing, “Spring was never waiting for us girl / It ran one step ahead as we followed in the dance.” He then went on to describe MacArthur Park, vividly painting it with the yellow cotton dress, the birds, and the old man playing checkers, evoking a sense of nostalgia. It was the setting of their love, but when their relationship ended, it slowly melted in the dark, serving as a reminder of the fleeting nature of love. 

And, in that famous chorus, he delivered the repeated refrain about a cake left out in the rain. It sent some to fury with how enigmatic it was, but if you looked at it more deeply, it was a metaphor for losing a chapter of your life. 

In the next verses after the instrumental, he holds on to hope that he’ll find someone for him. But he knows that after all the people that will come in his life and love him, she’s still the one for him. And he’ll be alone, wondering why.

And what made the song even more inviting was Jennings’ voice, which had the remarkable ability to really breathe the lyrics into life and take you on a journey. He understood how to tell a story – and if you have been listening to Waylon Jennings’ songs, you’d know. No wonder his version won a Grammy. Then, in 1976, he revisited the song on his album Are You Ready for the Country. 

Check out Waylon Jennings’ cover of “MacArthur Park” in the video below.

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