MacArthur Park

Album: A Tramp Shining (1968)
Charted: 4 2
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  • With the famous "cake out in the rain," this is one of the more lyrically intriguing songs ever recorded. MacArthur Park is a real park in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles, but that's about the only tangible reference.

    Jimmy Webb, who wrote the song, explained in Q magazine: "It's clearly about a love affair ending, and the person singing it is using the cake and the rain as a metaphor for that. OK, it may be far out there, and a bit incomprehensible, but I wrote the song at a time in the late 1960s when surrealistic lyrics were the order of the day."

    The love affair Webb speaks of was with Suzy Horton, who in 1993 married Linda Ronstadt's cousin, Bobby. Said Webb (in the Los Angeles Times), "MacArthur Park was where we met for lunch and paddleboat rides and feeding the ducks. She worked across the street at a life insurance company. Those lyrics were all very real to me - there was nothing psychedelic about it to me. The cake, it was an available object. It was what I saw in the park at the birthday parties. But people have very strong reactions to the song. There's been a lot of intellectual venom."
  • Are you convinced there's more to this song than Jimmy Webb is letting on? You might be right. The staff music composer Colin McCourt used to work for the publisher of this song, Edwin. H. Morris. McCourt claims Webb explained to him the song's meaning - cake in the rain and all. He told The Daily Mail April 2, 2011: "Jim was in love with a girl who left him. Months later, he heard she was getting married - in the park. Broken hearted, he went to the wedding and, not wanting to be seen, hid in a gardener's shed.

    As the open-air ceremony was taking place, it started to pour with rain and the rain running down the shed window made the cake look as if it was melting.

    Interestingly, the man who married the girl was a phone engineer from Wichita - inspiration for another of Jim's hits?"

    One thing for sure: When Webb found out Suzy Horton was getting married, it inspired him to write "Worst That Could Happen."
  • Jimmy Webb, whose songwriting credits include "Up-Up and Away" and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," wrote "MacArthur Park" in the summer of 1967. He offered it to Bones Howe, who produced The Association, for possible inclusion on the group's fourth album. Howe loved it, but The Association didn't want to devote that much space on the album to Webb's project, so they rejected it. The song went to Richard Harris, who delivered a lyrical interpretation that was filled with harpsichord (played by Webb) and changing tempo.
  • Richard Harris was an actor, and though not known for his singing, he had done musicals, including the movie Camelot. His performance on "MacArthur Park" is a very dramatic interpretation that gives the lyric plenty of gravitas.

    Harris did release a single in 1967 - "How To Handle A Woman," from the Camelot soundtrack - but had not done an album on his own until A Tramp Shining, written and produced by Jimmy Webb and featuring "MacArthur Park."

    Harris, who died at 72 on October 25, 2002, played Professor Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies and appeared in the films This Sporting Life, Unforgiven, and Wrestling Ernest Hemingway.
  • Richard Harris sang the title as "MacArthur's Park," and since he was the first to record it, that's how most others (including Donna Summer), sang it. When the song's writer, Jimmy Webb, recorded it for his 1996 album Ten Easy Pieces, he sang it as "MacArthur Park."
  • Webb produced this song for Richard Harris, crossing the Atlantic Ocean several times in the process. Explaining how he got together with the actor, Webb told Songfacts, "I met Richard on stage at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles. We were doing like an anti-war pageant with Walter Pidgeon, Edward G. Robinson, Mia Farrow and some other people, and I was doing music. In our off-time we used to like to play the piano backstage and sing and have a few beers, and Richard and I got to be really good friends. And we were just kind of tossing around that thing about, 'Wow, one of these days we ought to make a record.' And I used to say that to everybody, I'd say that to a cab driver.

    So one day I got a telegram over at my house on Camino Palmero that said, 'Dear Jimmy Webb, come London, make record. Love, Richard.' And it was the first time I was ever out of the country. I got on a 707 and flew to London and started doing this record with Richard. 'MacArthur Park' was kind of in the pile, but we had a lot of songs that we were interested in doing. And we ended up doing two albums. And a lot of people think the second album was better than the first. The second album was called The Yard Went on Forever.

    The first one was called A Tramp Shining. And that takes us to the question, which is, Why would you get an actor instead of a singer? Well, he was a singer. He had just done a very successful top-grossing motion picture, which was a musical version of Camelot. And he had sung all the Lerner & Loewe stuff. I mean, it wasn't perfect, but he had sung it. He had gotten through the score and it was considered successful. And I thought he had done a good enough job singing Lerner & Loewe that I thought I could make a record with him. I didn't think it was that weird - I still don't know why people are so taken aback by it. It's not like some strange thing. I had just done a musical. You know what I'm saying?

    He knew every Irish song that he had ever heard, he could sing them all, he did sing them all. His favorite drinks were black velvets, champagne and Guinness. Get a couple of black velvets in him and he'd start singing Irish songs. And I still know probably about a thousand Irish songs that Richard taught me. And we ended up making a successful album - it's hard to find a more successful album than that album. The song itself, 'MacArthur Park,' was covered by probably 150 or 200 artists. Still being covered, including Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, all the jazz artists wanted to cut it.

    Now that Richard's gone, he's a little easier to appreciate. He brought a great kind of theatrical dignity to 'MacArthur Park' and to those songs. And if he missed a note or he didn't carry it off particularly well as a singer, he had the actor's ability to step his way through the lyric and to speak some of the lines and basically to carry it off. He played Camelot on the road live. He had a bus and truck company then. And he eventually bought the rights to the Lerner & Loewe score, so he owned the publishing. And he played Camelot on the road for eight years. He told me one day at a bar that he made $65 million playing Camelot on the road. So it's a little insulting to say that he couldn't perform, or that he couldn't sing."
  • This was recorded at the short-lived Sound Recorders studio in Los Angeles on December 21, 1967, with the top-tier Los Angeles session musicians that later became known as "The Wrecking Crew." The contract lists these personnel:

    Tommy Tedesco - guitar
    Mike Deasy - guitar
    Al Casey - guitar
    Joe Osborn - bass
    Larry Knechtel - keyboards
    Hal Blaine - drums

    Webb is listed as the arranger and also as a musician because he played harpsichord on the track. He says that once they rehearsed the song a few times, they recorded it in one take.

    Overdubs of the orchestral instruments were done at two more sessions, also overseen by Webb, on December 29 and 30. The vocals were added later.
  • Donna Summer recorded a very complex disco version in 1978 with her producers, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Moroder had been searching for a song to rework with summer, and when Harris' version of "MacArthur Park" came on the radio, he knew it was the one, perfect for Summer's vocal range. Packed with synthesizers, horns and washes of background vocals, Summer's version ran 8:27 and was the first part of the "MacArthur Park Suite," which took up the entire D-side of her 1978 2-disc Live And More album (this side was the "More"; the rest of it was live cuts), segueing seamlessly into "One Of A Kind," then "Heaven Knows," and ending with a 1:32 reprise of "MacArthur Park."

    The 17-minute suite was great for dance clubs, but not suitable for radio, so Moroder made a tidy 3:54 single edit that went to #1 in America. By this time, the Richard Harris original was pretty much a relic in America, earning just occasional airplay on oldies radio. [Moroder had a hard time finding the song to work from - he ended up getting it on 8-track.] Summer brought the song back to life with a contemporary recording that caught on with younger listeners.
  • Summer's cover was the first of her four US #1 hits. It earned her an invite to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, but instead of performing "MacArthur Park," she sang an unrecorded song called "Starting Over Again," which she wrote with her husband, Bruce Sudano. After Summer's performance, Dolly Parton recorded that song and it became a #1 Country hit.
  • The Donna Summer version is the only Jimmy Webb composition to hit #1 in America. Webb didn't know Summer was recording it, but was thrilled when she did. He was so happy to finally hit #1, he cut out the Billboard chart and framed it.
  • This runs 7:20. At the time, it was still rare for radio stations to play songs longer than 3 minutes, so Harris' label, MCA, didn't release the song as a single. But some radio stations on the FM dial (the adventurous new competitor to AM), started playing the song from the album, which prompted MCA to release it. When it proved popular, many AM stations also jumped on it. According to Webb, KHJ, a big rock station in Los Angeles, asked for a short version to play. Webb refused to edit the song, so the station ended up playing all 7:20 of it.
  • "Hey Jude" by The Beatles came out a few months after "MacArthur Park" and was nearly as long, running a leisurely 7:11. In America and the UK, it was a #1 hit and the biggest-selling single of 1968. According to Jimmy Webb, Beatles producer George Martin told him "MacArthur Park"'s success was a factor in letting "Hey Jude" vamp out past 7 minutes.
  • In a 2013 interview with The Guardian, Webb said the woman the song is about, Suzy Horton, went on to become a dancer in Lake Tahoe. After Webb "came into some significant money," he flew out there on a private Lear jet to get her back. She did indeed leave with him and they stayed together for three years. "Then it turned into a soap opera," Webb said.
  • Five different versions of this song charted in America:

    1968 Richard Harris (#2)
    1969 Waylon Jennings & The Kimberlys (#93)
    1971 The Four Tops (#38)
    1972 Andy Williams (#102)
    1978 Donna Summer (#1)

    The Four Tops version was split into two parts, with each part taking up a side of the single. Part II, running 2:59, was the hit.

    Other notable covers are by Glen Campbell, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra.
  • According to Shiloh Noone, author of Seekers Guide To The Rhythm Of Yesteryear, Webb's original lyrics mention that the cake was laced with hashish, but this was left out due to legalities. Shiloh adds: "I approached Richard Harris in 1978 in Stellenbosch Lanzerac Hotel South Africa where he was relaxing with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor on the porch after a shoot for the soundtrack The Wild Geese. I approached him directly and said what was the cake that melted in the park, Richard Burton looked at Harris pissed out of his mind and said, 'Oh it's for you Richard he's not interested in us darling'... while Elizabeth almost missed her mouth when she brought the cigarette to her lips. They were all heavily under the whisky, Richard Harris looked at me and said... 'the death of a hippy my boy, the death of a hippy just look at us.'"
  • The Scottish prog band Beggar's Opera recorded this on their 1972 album Pathfinder as an opus with harpsichord and mellotron. Richard Harris said of this version: "Beggar's added that intense luster and vibrancy that was so needed when first offered to The Association."
  • In his 2013 The Guardian interview, Webb gave another interpretation to the "cake in the rain." He said it was something he actually saw, adding vaguely, "We would eat cake and leave it in the rain." The image struck him as a great metaphor for "losing a chapter of your life."
  • There's not much middle ground on this song, as listeners either love it or hate it. In 1992, when Miami Herald humor columnist Dave Barry asked his readers to send in their pick for the single worst song ever released, the majority chose "MacArthur Park." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    AJ - Longmeadow, MA
  • In Harris' version, the old men are "playing checkers by the trees." In Summer's version, they're playing Chinese Checkers.
  • Maynard Ferguson recorded a 10-minute jazz instrumental that was released on his 1993 album The Essence Of Maynard Ferguson.
  • Weird Al Yankovic wrote a parody of this called "Jurassic Park" about the blockbuster movie of the same name. It is on his 1993 album Alapalooza. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Steph - SoCal, CA
  • The song is referenced in three separate episodes of The Simpsons. Arguably the most overt reference is in "A Fish Called Selma," in which the name of Troy McClure's agent is "MacArthur Parker." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    James - Tracy, CA

Comments: 173

  • Calvin Rush from Ottumwa Ia.Is there a video of him doing this on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson? Where can I find it? Love this version o this song
  • Kev from Rogers, ArI'll also add that there is also a "MacArthur Park" in Little Rock, Arkansas. I visited the park 5 years after the song came out, so I thought the song was about the Little Rock park! I had no idea at the time that there was a MacArthur Park in Los Angeles.
  • Kev from Rogers, ArOh my gosh, I remember skating to this song in 1968. And the instrumental part was featured in a local TV commercial back then. The instrumental part, to me, sums up the '60s. I still love it, 50+ years later.
  • Mike From Florida from FloridaLoved this Harris recording. Today, 1/1/2021. Mcarthur park is no longer a place to have lunch with your sweetie. Now a homeless camp.
  • Mickey from Sin FunciscoSongs lyrics don't have to make sense. Like poetry, lyrics are often trying to communicate a feeling, using the devices common to poetry--metaphor, simile, imagery and so forth . If the imagery of melting cakes and foaming dresses doesn't grab you, how about "Norwegian Wood"? What the hell is THAT about? The lyrics are cryptic and open to multiple interpretations, the words aren't communicating ideas, they are invoking feeling...if your lucky.
  • Barbara Sweeney from Chester U. K. I love the Richard Harris version. Not fussed on the Donna Summer version.
  • Elizabeth A. Kasprzak from Dearborn MiMacArthur Park...Best Song Ever!!!
  • Duane from Temple, TxWaylon Jennings also did an excellent recording of this song, but it’s hard to find. It’s probably my favorite version.
  • Mike from TexasI know we all have different ideas to the meanings of the lyrics. I can apply my own justifications to each line except one. And maybe 'justification' is too strong a word. How about, "What it could have meant" or "What I would like for it to mean". Anyway, the only line I cannot find any application to is, "I will win the worship in their eyes and I will lose it".
    I would like several ideas please.
  • Wendy from Hampshire, UkI've always really rather liked the song, even though everyone seems to think it's strange. The lyrics are unconventional, but when all's said and done, it is a love song, which I hadn't realised before; I always assumed it was about a drug addict.
  • Jett from ArkansasI have always wondered who's hitting all those high notes at the end. Richard may hit the first "Oh no!" but even that was a stretch for him and all the booze in the world couldn't have gotten him or Jimmy Webb as high as the rest of the notes went! It might be just instruments playing that high or I've always thought maybe there were uncredited female backup singers.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenSo disliked is this song, it was used in a competition for the worst possible simile as: "She was as unhappy as when someone leaves your cake out in the rain, and all the sweet green icing flows down and you lost the recipe, and on top of that you can't sing worth a damn."
  • Donald G. Gibson from Langley, Bc. CanadaI listened to Richard Harris sing McArthur Park in the late 60's that was part of an album with a mix of other music. I think we wore out that album playing it over and over and over at the highest level possible on the record player. Dam I loved it. I was only 14-15 years old! Thank you Jimmy Webb, you are a great songwriter...
  • Jim from EverettRichard Harris kept singing MacArthur's Park. Jimmy Webb would correct him, telling him, no it's MacArthur Park not MacArthur's Park, to no avail. It was recorded as MacArthur's Park.
  • Robt William Churchill from Vatican CityAye...Guinness for strength. The secret to a long life.
  • Robt William Churchill from Vatican CityCan anyone shed insight or share information regarding how Mr. Webb gained (apparently) complete and total access to high powered recording executives? Eighteen year olds in the 60s weren't welcome into the the executive, white collar suites of any business. Also, who ARRANGED the Harris version? This type of orchestral work doesn't show up in Mr. Webb's other pop hits. - Thank you.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 5th 1968, "MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #79; six weeks later on June 16th, 1968 it would peak at #2* {for 1 week} and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on August 24th, 1968 it reached #1 {for 2 weeks} on the Australian Kent Music chart...
    He had three other Top 100 records; "The Yard Went On Forever" {#64 in 1968}, "Didn't We" {#63 in 1969}, and "My Boy" {#41 in 1972}...
    Richard Harris passed away on October 25th, 2002 at the age of 72...
    May he R.I.P.
    * The week "MacArthur Park" was at #2, the #1 record for that week was "This Guy's in Love With You" by Herb Alpert.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 5th 1971, "MacArthur Park" by the Four Tops entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #78, and on October 3rd, 1971 it peaked at #38 {for 2 weeks} and spent 8 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #27 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    Between 1964 and 1988 the Motown quartet had forty-four Top 100 records; five made the Top 10 with one reaching #1, "Reach Out I'll Be There" for 2 weeks on October 9th, 1966...
    They just missed having seven Top 10 records when "Still Water (Love)" in 1970 and "When She Was My Girl" in 1981 both peaked at #11...
    On Billboard's R&B Singles chart they had three #1 and five #2 records...
    Sadly, three of the four members have passed away; Levi Stubbs {1936 - 2008}, Renaldo 'Obie' Benson {1936- 2005}, & Lawrence Payton {1938 - 1997} and Abdul 'Duke' Fakir will celebrate his 79th birthday the day after Christmas {December 26th, 2014}...
    May Mr. Stubbs, Mr. Benson, & Mr. Payton R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 31st 1969, "MacArthur Park" by Waylon Jennings & the Kimberlys entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #93, the following week it stayed at #93 and that was also its final week on the Top 100...
    It reached #23 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart {#11 on the Canadian RPM Country chart}...
    R.I.P. Waylon Arnold Jennings {1937 - 2002}.
  • Anita from West'After the "Oh No" at the end, Jimmy apologized for not being able to hit the high E.'
    comment to Terry from OK:

    Many times when a sideman was having problems he would 'sing' a comment in the background in time and same key with the chorus or vocalist or in the instrumental break, so as not to ruin the entire song, thus causing a dub or another take. With high tech headphones, you can hear these interesting abnomaliities. (They were very common in the 60's and early 70's) and humorous, as well.
    Really though, sweet green icing running down a cake? Same color of maybe neon green Owsley acid? Well, we thought this guy was on a bummer. Many Hollywood stars turned on back then also, it wasn't just hippies. Yet, this wasn't a rock song. It was a too long 'old people's song' being played on a RnR station! How it got to #2 Pop Chart of May 1968 is just beyond anyone's weird-ist trip.
    The comments on this board were Great to read! TY
    ps. Richard Harris's son Jared Harrs, was aka Lane Pryce on the series, 'Mad Men.'
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyAs already stated; Hal Blaine played drums on this record, thus he just missed appearing on his 39th number one record on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart...
    Between 1961 and 1976 he was the drummer on thirty-eight #1 records; started with "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis and the last was "Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)" by Diana Ross.
  • Pete from Mather, CaLet me try again and see if the entire lyric will post without being cut short. This lyric needs to replace the existing which is misconceived and mistaken. Please refer to my comment above.

    Verse 1
    Spring was never waiting for us, girl,
    It ran one step ahead as we followed in the dance.
    Between the parted pages, and (we)were pressed
    In love's hot, fevered iron like a striped pair of pants.
  • Pete from Mather, CaThe lyric given is fundamentally mistaken. Here is an accurate transcription in single column--too bad the site will not accept easy to read columar format. Strongly recommend replacing existing lyric as its writer did not seem to even know what a chorus is.

    Verse 1
    Spring was never waiting for us, girl,
    It ran one step ahead as we followed in the dance.
    Between the parted pages, and (we)were pressed
    In love's hot, fevered iron like a strίped pair of pants.
    Refrain (Appears at end (scroll down) before the choral Code (the only chorus or overdub in the song) Also, not the run in which makes clear the statement about being pressed (no, spring was not pressed, it was the two lovers for whom spring never came; yes, the line has sexual overtone)
  • Scott from Glendale, AzThe Record Company guy said, "Hey, Jimmy we need you write a bunch of snazzy hits for Richard Harris, make them quick and easy."
    One of the Record Execs in the room followed with, "and hurry up, bitch!"
    Well, Mr. Webb didn't take that too kindly.
    As a joke he presented this song in short form, hoping to get these executives fired for letting him record such a crazy and un-marketable song.
    Jimmy's plan back-fired because Richard Harris was dropping a half-sheet of high-potency blotter acid and caught wind of the part about the melting cake.
    When Harris got excited, the executives got really wound up and begged Jimmy to come up with a 4 minute version.
    Jimmy was double pissed now, because these f--kers were gonna get rich off the song he wrote in revenge for their s--tty attitude towards him.
    Not to be outdone, he composed a challenging 7+ minute extravagnza of interwoven and overlapping melodies and several, almost un-listenable, key changes.
    "f--k those guys in their stupid suits..." said Webb, "No self-respecting DJ will ever play this."
    Someone said they saw Glen Campbell touching himself to the song and was growling feverishly at the chance to meet Jimmy. I think we all know how that turned out.
  • Terry from Valliant, OkI went to college one year with Jimmy's little brother Tommy. We were at OK Baptist in Shawnee. He had a basketball scholarship, I basically had no business being there, but that's another story. Anyway, Jimmy came to OBU and did a concert. He began singing MP. The keyboard player noticed the huge pipe organ, ran over to it, but never could figger out how to turn it on. After the "Oh No" at the end, Jimmy apologized for not being able to hit the high E. Then he said, "Oh well, Richard couldn't do it either." I was probably the only one in high school at Geronimo, OK that liked the song. If it came on while I was pulling into the driveway for home, I'd go around the block a few times to hear the whole thing. I listened to it once while in California, on the old KOMA AM radio station out of OKC.
  • Thomas from Shallotte, NcThis 45 was released April 1968, "Hey Jude" by The Beatles was released August 26, 1968, making "Mac Arthur Park" the first over-7 minutes long song to be released on the 45 format. ABC/Dunhill Records original pressings of this 45 were infamous for skipping horribly after a few plays due to the grooves being so compressed for the length. "Hey Jude" was 7 minutes and 11 seconds, nine seconds shorter than "Mac Arthur Park", requiring 12 less revolutions and reducing the compression causing the skipping.
    Really remarkable this was a hit considering AM radio was strongly resistant to playing anything over 3 minutes before and after this song hit.
  • J from Everett, MaI just watched the Jimmy Webb version of the song again. I'm reminded of what I think the significance of him doing the' Oh no' like a wolf howling at the moon is.
    A wolf howling at the moon is sort of an unwritten symbol of loneliness. It seems he was continuing to express his sorrow of his loss and the loneliness he was still feeling as he performed the song. This is also why I believe the song was not written as a joke. He was very serious when he wrote this song. I'm not sure why so many find the symbology in this song so difficult to understand. A relationship doesn't just happen, it takes work for it to really come together and grow.
    This is why, I believe, that he gives the recipe analogy. Then the final result of all the work, the cake, gets ruined by the rain, which symbolizes the storms of life that ruined his relationship. Also I think a lot of people get thrown by the 'striped pair of pants' line. The fact that the pants are striped is irrelevant. He is just saying that the emotions were hot and powerful like being pressed in a hot iron like a pair of pants is pressed at the cleaners.
  • J from Everett, MaIf you haven't seen Jimmy Webb's version of this song you should check it out on YouTube. To me it explains a lot about his personality and makes the sentimentality in the song so much more believable. It's kind of funny though that when he sings the 'Oh no' part of the song, he tilts his head back and really rounds his mouth like a wolf howling at the moon.
    That to me in of itself shows the little bit of corny side of him that is seen in the lyrics of the song. I'm a very sentimental guy too, so I don't say that to make fun of him, I think it's kind of cool and I relate to it.
  • Willie from Scottsdale, AzGeorge (Jason Alexander) references this song in the Seinfeld episode "The Statue."
  • Michael Scott from Punta Gorda, FlWhat happened to the music? I can't find harris' version anywhere.
  • John from Rockville, InOne of the greatest pop songs ever written & performed. The intellectually crippled will never get it, but both the musical composition and lyrics speak volumes. This song came out shortly before I graduated college and I've cherished it from day one.
    I hadn't realized until now that Richard Harris the singer was the same person who played Dumbledore in the HP movies and must express my great disappointment that neither he nor any cast members left the set in protest when Rowlings insisted that his character was gay, a grievous revelation and unacceptable betrayal of unsuspecting fans around the world. Sadly money has replaced integrity in society today and Rowlings ought to have been blacklisted by all modern publishers. Regardless, MacArthur Park remains a classic that no modern pop music may hope to approach either in expression or creativeness.
  • Roger from San Diego, CaJimmy Webb is our generation's George Gershwin. My first meeting him was in Los Angeles, I was 19 and he was 22. I knew
    he was someone very special. We got thru Vietnam (1970) as his songs were songs over AFVN (Armed Forces Vietnam) Radio.
    MacArthur Park's ... just enjoy it !!!! It's a great song ... and yes, HAL BLAINE ON DRUMS ..... it doesn't get any better than him.
    Roger, San Diego
  • Tom from Portland, OrI might add he used the 8 string instead of his famous 1960 Fender jazz bass that he used on just about everything else he did.
  • Tom from Portland, OrLegendary LA session bassist Joe Osborn was the bass player. He used a Hagstrom 8 string bass. You can also hear him using it on "Only Living Boy In New York" by Simon & Garfunkel that was recorded a couple of years later.
  • Bill from Newport, RiI soundly agree with the many who view this as a Shakespearean Tradgedy of love represented in a metaphor as the "cake" and to never have that recipe again....the result of having someone walk into your life and each of you not knowing how to hold on to such a gift....such a horor....
  • William from Riverside , CaThe comment that Jimmy Webb was seeing Susan Ronstadt is incorrect . Susan is Linda's older sister- not her cousin. My wife went to school with Susan in Tucson in the mid 50's. We know the family, Pete, who is/was Tucson Police Chief, the late brother Jim who ran Tucson's Parks Department for many years, and Susie's son Quico, who was in my son's Cub Scout pack at Harrelson Elemntary School in Tucson's NW side in the late 70's.
  • Bruce from Studio City, CaNever cared for the song when I first heard Harris sing it. Too long and didn't understand it, even though I knew it was metaphorical. It wasn't until 1971, while touring as an actor, that I was sitting in the student lounge at Moorhead College, just relaxing before the show. A student put some money in the lounge jukebox. It was the Four Tops version of MacArthur Park, Part One & part Two - both sides of the 45-record. Part two was what I heard and I've loved that song ever since.
  • William from Llano, CaJimmy and I have had many a giggle over the many "interpretations" of the lyrics, by fans and pros. Virtually all of them - including most of those above- way, way off the mark; including those about the genesis of the song and its recording by Richard. Significantly, the song was not written as some kind of joke, or challenge, or bet between Jimmy and Richard. Richard had never heard, or heard of, the song until I sent a piano/voice demo to him in London as we were planning the album. Jimmy wrote the song for The Association in 1967 on his brand new Yamaha concert grand in a house we were sharing in Laurel Canyon; Bones Howe loved it; the boys, not so much. It is a love song, pure and simple (well, maybe not so simple). It is a deeply personal song, and like most great songs it is rich in metaphor. But one would be surprised at how literal much of the imagery is, as is most, if not all, of Jimmy's songs, taken as it was from the event that inspired the song.
    William F. Williams, Supervising Producer "A TRAMP SHINING" ("MacArthur Park").
  • Steve from Whittier, CaWell, Dumbledore [the Harry Potter wizard character that the late Sir Richard Harris played] did do wizardy after all, years before: he got a seven and a half minute long song on AM radio!
  • Michael Scott from Punta Gorda, FlSpring was never waiting for us, girl it ran one step ahead as we followed in the dance
    Between the parted pages and were pressed in love's hot fevered iron, like a striped pair of pants
    MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark all the sweet, green icing flowing down
    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, "oh no" ("again", 3rd chorus)
    I recall the yellow cotton dress foaming like a wave on the ground around your knees
    The birds, like tender babies in your hands and the old men playing checkers by the trees
    (2nd chorus)

    There would be another song for me, for I will sing it, There would be another dream for me, someone will bring it
    I will drink the wine while it is warm and never let you catch me looking at the sun, and after all the loves of my life
    after all the loves of my life, you'll still be the one

    I will take my life into my hands and I will use it, I will win the worship in their eyes and I will lose it
    I will have the things that I desire, and my passion flow like rivers through the sky
    and after all the love's of my life, oh after all the love's of my life, I'll be thinking of you and wondering why
    (3rd chorus)
    again, 'ginn, again
  • Michael Scott from Punta Gorda, FlThis is the longest comment section of this web site.. Who ever says Harris is not a singer doesn't know how. Trying joing Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, Lee Marvin, and other actors that have surprised us. I think taking Donna Summers first 2 and 3/4 min. of her version and splicing it to Harris' last 4 and 1/2 min. would have another chart topper.
  • Elizabeth from Scottsdale, AzWhen I was between the ages of 8 and 12 years old my grandparents lived in Los Angeles near MacArthur Park. They came to Los Angeles in 1932 when the park was called Westlake park, so they continued to call it that. I didn't realize until I was grown that around the time I was born (1942) they changed the name to MacArthur park after General MacArthur. I still often refer to it as Westlake Park. My grandfather took me to the movies at the 3 theaters that surrounded the park, then we would go for ice cream and then ride in the little motor boats on the lake.

    In the erly 1900's the park was a beautiful place to go and the wealthy people went there often. When I went there it was still nice but it was mostly middle class people. Now it is dangerous to go there even in the daytime. One of the theaters has been demolished, another is a spanish movie house and I don't know what happened to the other. There names were the Lake,the Westlake and the Alvarado. When I went there they were some of the best times of my life.
  • James from San Jose, CaWhen I first heard this song in '68, I immediately saw this imagery: a wintery scene at the park, trees are snow-laden so the tree tops and branches, as well as the grounds plus everything else are snowy-white. As night falls, the snow begins to melt. The snow on the tree branches, which looks like icing on a cake, melts and starts coming down. The analogy is snow and icing, and park and cake. It is as if a cake is getting ruined when left out in the rain.
    The song writer laments that he'd never duplicate that scenario again: the snowy scenery, him being there to witness, and the feelings inside him.
    The feelins he has are invoked when he reminisces earlier about his first love, whom he can still visualize in a yellow dress. Also the feelings invoked when he recounts his life in general, the good and the bad, and his ambitions.
    The line that touched me then was "you'll still be the one"; it's a very romatic notion about one's first love.
    I've read that when Elvis first heard this song, he allegedly said he wished he had a song like "McArthur Park"; a song that has meaning and not just a teeny bopper love song. His song writers immediately went to work and composed for him "The Ghetto".
  • Brian from Hobart, AustraliaW H Auden "My face looks like a wedding-cake left out in the rain"

    He wrote the song around this famous quote. An old man looking back on his life and relationships knowing it is too late to change it or start again.

    Everything like the icing etc. flows from him using this quote as the hook line for the song.
  • Brian from Hobart, AustraliaW. H. Auden - "My face looks like a wedding-cake left out in the rain"

    Just a good line that then allows him to look back on his life blah blah. He can't bake the cake again because his life has been lived already and he is pretty old so he can't start again.

    All the other 'odd' stuff about icing and the rest all flows from this quote that the song was built around. Just an old man reflecting on his life and relationship.
  • Mooney from Los Angeles, CaOk.

    After reading all these posts, I feel very humbled by the diversity of our family-human.

    With out further ado, the scoop on this song is that Jimmy and Richard made a bet whether or not Jimmy could write a song that would go to number one for Richard. They bet a Rolls Royce for the prize.

    Jimmy wrote the most metaphoric song he could write; Sheakesperian and all that so as to basically make fun of his friend while really believing he could do this. If Jimmy has nothing else, he has an ego

    Richard sang it and was laughing all the way along; thinking the song didn't have a prayer.

    It went to number two on the charts at the time. Jimmy paid up and they had a good laugh.

    Jimmy has a ton of songs that have never seen the light of day. Some of them scraps of pieces meant for this endeavor.

    Funny, but true.
  • Barbara Mckeehen from Brooklyn, NyThe melting cake refers to the opening scene of "So Dear to My Heart", that showa a deserted picnic due to rain and a cake left out that was melting in the rain. The viewer was lamenting the hard work that went into making a cake (in the early 1900s). The rest of the song has to do with a man losing the love of his life with a metaphor about forgetting the (cake) recipe or the "recipe" for happiness with the one you love. This is absolutely my favorite song, as sung by Harris, who read the lines dramatically but didn't really sing them as he is not a singer.
  • Barbara Mckeehen from Brooklyn, NyThe melting cake refers to the opening scene of "So Dear to My Heart", that showa a deserted picnic due to rain and a cake left out that was melting in the rain. The viewer was lamenting the hard work that went into making a cake (in the early 1900s). The rest of the song has to do with a man losing the love of his life with a metaphor about forgetting the (cake) recipe or the "recipe" for happiness with the one you love. This is absolutely my favorite song, as sung by Harris, who read the lines dramatically but didn't really sing them as he is not a singer.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxThere was a contest to write the worst simile and this was one of the winners:

    "She was as unhappy as when someone leaves your cake out in the rain, and all the sweet green icing flows down and you lost the recipe, and on top of that, you can't sing worth a damn."
  • Robert from Alhambra, CaRicky how in the world do you consider Donna Summer's version a work of art!? I think your stuck in Disco Bud. Disco was not art in my opinion, It was Okay for a Disco song, but your getting carried away. I for one love Richarrd Harris. I have to admit though, this song is a bit melodramtic. I can see him doing this in a play. it has that showtune feel. But I love it. its sad and reflective song about a man that sees himself as a tragic figure, who once again sees his world coming apart. I get this impression midsong where says "there will be another song for me and I will sing it. there will another dream for me someone will bring it.......I will take my life into my hands and I will use It I will win the worship in their Eyes and I will lose it. and so on. How many times have we risen out of the ashes after a heartbreaking experience and affirmed ourselves as human beings deserving of love and success? Lastly I do not think he is referring to the Macarthur's Park in Los Angeles. But A Macarthur's Park In the U.K.. I do love this song. The music is stately. I can relate to the way his character feels.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesThere are a couple of very good articles about this on J.A. Bartlett's blog. Start here:
  • Jaynee from Southampton , United KingdomOnly thoes in touch with their real selves will appreciate the instrumental, and lyrics of this most beautiful song sung with such ability to touch their soul i only wish i was 15 again !
  • Roy from Shenzhen, ChinaSorry, I see no Song. Why?

    Thank you. Mr. Lowe
  • Scott from Glasgow, United KingdomI remember the London Times did an obituary for Richard Harris and made no mention of MacArthur Park! I could't believe it! I contacted them to complain that he had a hit record with one of the greatest records ever. I remember distinctly the time and place when I first heard this record. It was at a cricket match at Rouken Glen park in Glasgow and hearing it always reminds me of that day in 1968. One of the greatest records ever!
  • Bob from San Jose, CaThis beautiful song has special meaning for me. I had just gotten out of the Army and had a girl in Massachusetts that I had been writing to for 2 years. I lived in California. She wanted me to go back to California and told me goodbye. Flying back home on a jet I listened to this song some twenty times. I shared its sadness and understood the true meaning. One week later a letter came explaining that she loved me but did not want me to miss the opportunity I had in California. We got married 5 months later and have been married 40 years.
  • Daevid from Glendale, CaAs usual, Hal Blaine is brilliantly creative on percussion.
  • Stormy from Kokomo, InThis song was popular my senior year at Kokomo High School. When my friends Ted Rose, Don Smith and I drove down to Daytona Beach, Florida after graduation, this song played on the car radio about every other song and Don just hated it! Ted and I loved the song so we voted out Don to keep hearing the song when it played! Smoking cigars and drinking beer on the way down. That was some fun times! Especially considering that the Vietnam War was going on and none of us knew what would happen to us after graduation. Also we told our parents that we were going to the beach. They thought that we went to Indiana Beach in Indiana. OOPS!
  • John from Sao Paulo, BrazilSomeone said that JW wrote some crap just to show that it was possible to make a hit with it.
    And what a big hit it has been!
    What I can think after seeing all the comments posted about MP is that if by 1968 it was possible to make a hit with crap, nowadys almost all hits are made from crap!
    Have a nice time.
    John -Brazil
  • Danny from Borger, TxThis is a great song that I believe Webb probably did write because of an emotional time in his life. I doubt he ever dreamed such metaphoric parts involving baking a cake,etc., would draw so much attention. Maybe I am wrong and that was his original intent to muddy the waters and create all this wild curiosity to draw attention to the song but I doubt that it. He and only he knows the true meaning and if he ever truly disclosed it the curiosity would waiver and die. It is an excellent song that Richard Harris performed brilliantly. He was not a singer but an actor performing a song that was easy to relate to just because he was not an accomplished singer. Jimmy Webb was and still is an excellent song writer and Richard Harris was perfect for the part.
  • Kathy from Chippewa Falls, WiWe were living in Tasmania when this first hit the radio waves. It was on the radio, same time every morning, forever. Nobody would be talking at our house that early, just getting ready, me holding the hairbrush out for my mother to undo my braids and redo them for school. The words were instantly engraved on my mind but I never understood them and I didn't even try. My mother would have shut the radio off if she thought it was "drug related". My mother said she can't remember the song at all and that's too bad because it's one of those great memories I cherish I love this song and I've never even tried to understand it. Maybe I just loved that snapshot of 1968.
  • Ezra from Rio, TxI was so disappointed of seeing the REAL McArthur Park in LA. I thought that it was going to be a real beauty. Instead I saw winos,gang bangers and bums. It was very disappointing but I still like the song.
  • Catherine from Jacksonville, FlMP is my favorite song of Waylon Jennings. He does a beautiful rendition. I never understood the meaning either but feel it is open to a personal opinion. Now I'd like to hear other versions.
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, Caquoting the phrase of a friend of mine, Bobby Keeter(hello Bobby)my comment on this song is
    "What are you going to do for an encore...stand on your head and stack bb's?...." lol
    brilliant song and production!
  • Mike from Santa Barbara, CaNo one is perfect, not even the brilliant songwriter Jimmy Webb. He has written so many excellent songs, but this isn't one of them. Indeed, it's his worst ever. And Richard Harris's singing is not recognizable as singing. I know, people will say I'm being a square for expecting that lyrics be something other than inane and that music not be painful to listen to. So be it. I will concede that Donna Summer did as good a job as one could have done with her cover of the song.
  • Sandra from Palmdale, CaMacArthur Park has been my favorite song for years. I've requested it played at my funeral. It is beautiful poetry, and no one can sing it like Richard Harris. He IS TOO a singer!! What a range.
    I almost sent the title in to Dave Barry's "Worst-ever song" that year, because I know that most people think it's stupid. They don't Get It. I love the words and I love his voice.
  • Jim from Rocky River, OhI have always loved this song. I was 15 when it was on the Top 40 stations and I was really taken with the imagery. Who cares if Richard Harris is not a singer? Not every song has to be worthy of a Grammy to be beloved.
  • Steve from Calabasas, CaSort of funny to read all of the comments from people who don't even know that MacArthur Park exists...or what it is...or what it was circa 1967...Let me say that I was there. Not only in MacArthur Park, but also in "1967"...Also know that Jimmy Webb, though born in Oklahoma in 1946, moved to Los Angeles as a teenager in 1964. MacArthur Park is a strikingly picturesque park in Los Angeles, just to the West of Downtown, along Wilshire Boulebard at Alvarado...The central feature of the park is a small lake and the park slopes down in all directions from the street toward the lake with grassy slopes. It is an oasis in an otherwise very urban setting. The areaq immediately around the park is a variety of interesting businesses, now mostly latino and other immigrant ethnicities (Most importantly, at the Southeast corner of the park--at 7th and Alvarado is one of LA's early institutions--Langer's Deli). But the area has always included a lot of "lower cost" rental housing...So, thinking back to the 1960s, this was not the area it is now, but was a magnet for young people living a bohemian urban lifestyle--Yup, friends, HIPPIES...along with others of the neighborhood--like those old men you'd see playing checkers in the park...MacArthur Park wa a place you could go and lie back in the grass near the lake, smoke a little weed, commune with others...
  • Jeff from Grand Junction, CoThis is my favorite song. It is a painting with words, as a good poem would do...the many layers of the cake that we make to create a great and wonderful relationship, which makes us complete...only to loss that love, and find the cake "melting" away as if the love of our life has died tragically and we must bury them and find ourselves with a great void in our hearts that noone else, no matter how wondeful, could ever fill. I find the magic of a first romance in this song..."Spring, (the first of the four seasons of our lives, this one being the season of innocence)was never waiting for us Girl" symbolises to me how that first love was so rushed that they were literally "out of their heads" in the emotion. A love that really couldn't last, but none-the-last one that left a rememberable cord in the heart that can not be severed even in time, even if that love was really not the "one" that you are meant to be with for the rest of your life, ar even worthy of note! Perhaps someone that you would just as soon forget, but can't..."and wondering why"! Jimmy Webb was a true artist with words and who better to sing them then Richard Harris. I have not heard the Waylan Jennings version however, but I have heard the Donna Sommers versin which I found to be good, but lacks the magic that Richard Harris sings, which I felt to be more heart-felt as a true master of an actor can duplicate. As for those who think that songs need to have a more direct meaning, minus the metyphors, I am lead to conclude that you don't have no concept or desire for romance...that you hate dancing or candle light dinners and think a woman's role in life is to bring you beer, chips and sandwiches so you can enjoy the game undisturbed on front of the TV. Romance is the key to marital happiness and such songs with poetic phrases only strengthens the relationship.
  • David from Massillon, OhNitpickty technical error: it was pies, not cakes, that people used to set outside to cool, where someone might accidentally leave them out in the rain. My father's favorite dog died from being forgotten to be also outside and (literally) wolfing down a hot pie before it had cooled.

    Webb was mostly brilliant; check out his Glen Campbell song "Witchita Cowboy." Our grandchildren will drool over the chance to have been so lucky to have lived in the world Webb paints in that song.
  • Melissa from Wilmette, IlI can think of many interpretations to the lyrics of this song. But, who cares? I love the Richard Harris version just as much now and I did when in 1968, when I was just 15 years old. The song mezmerizes me each time I listen to it. It's in my top ten favorites of all time.
  • Kevin from New Britain, Ct
    MacArthur Park is a California Raisin in the Sun

    The recurring lyrics of MacArthur Park is a Californiarized version of the poem: Harlem, A Dream Deferred ( a great poem) by Langston Hughes.

    What happens to a dream deferred?
    Does it dry up
    like a raisin in the sun?
    Or fester like a sore--
    And then run?
    Does it stink like rotten meat?
    Or crust and sugar over--
    like a syrupy sweet?
    Maybe it just sags
    like a heavy load.
    Or does it explode?

    Consider the lines from each:"...crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet?" - Very similar to "All the sweet cream icing flowing down."

    Consider also: "A raisin in the Sun" which is a weather related food dilemma as is "Someone left the cake out in the rain".

    "A dream deferred" - "There will be another dream for me."

    "Or does it explode?" - "Oh no,oh no,no, no,Oh No."

    (and he didn't think anyone would notice)
  • Lolita from Loganholme, AustraliaThis tops my 100 best songs I am compiling which I have been planning to do since 10 years ago. With the advanced technology just right in front of us, my dream plan would soon be a reality. I wonder if I have to worry about copywright laws!
    Anyway which way, MacArthur Park is the best pop song that was written, ever and Richard Harris is the only one who could give justice to it all. My husband who only learns to appreciate pop music when we met, had broken 2 cassette tapes of my Reader's digest No 1 Collection which had this song because he keeps on playing and rewinding the tape back to the same song. I have to reorder twice from Reader's Digest! I don't think it's still available. He reckons that's the most poignant song he heard and the lyrics, wow! And as the saying goes, the singer not the song? Who could have read and sung a song at the same time better than Richard Harris...Bless your soul. I rest my case.
  • Bubba from Anaheim, CaAgree that Waylon Jennings version is superior, not because he "did" it better but the country genre fit the melodramatic aspects better than a hippie induced reading, if drunken Britisher Harris could even be called a hippie..hell, Waylon was a better dope smoking hippe than any limey. Bubba, anaheim hills, ca
  • Dave from Des Moines, IaI find it interesting that people can criticize real art like "Nights in White Satin," or "The Dreamweaver" and then praise crap like this. This is undoutebly one of the lamest songs ever recorded. Forget the metephor. If you want a real metaphor take in "Late Lament."
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesCharlie from NY -- Yeah, I see what you're getting at, but my mileage varies a great deal. I think part of the problem is something we English majors are subject to quite often -- "In many college English courses the words myth and symbol are given a tremendous charge of significance. You just ain't no good unless you can see a symbol hiding, like a scared gerbil, under every page. And in many creative writing courses the little beasts multiply, the place swarms with them. What does this Mean? What does that Symbolize? What is the Underlying Mythos? Kids come lurching out of such courses with a brain full of gerbils. And they sit down and write a lot of empty pomposity, under the impression that that's how Melville did it." -- Ursula K. LeGuin (continued next post)
  • Jeff from Northeast, PaI enjoy the Webb and Summers versions. Thought it great that Donna Summer added Chinese to the song, "old men playing 'Chinese' checkers". I always enjoyed roller skating to the 16+ minute suite that Donna did so well, and I never get sick of hearing it. Jeff, NE PA
  • N.i. from Baltimore, MdSamuel R. Smith: I'm afraid that your remarks, while well-intentioned, reflect the kind of elitism that makes people hate this song even more. Just because a song attempts to be complex and intellectual doesn't automatically make it good. (And conversely, a relatively "simple" composition can be brilliant.) Many sophisticated listeners have concluded that "MacArthur Park" is embarrassingly pretentious. No matter how many layers of meaning you find in that cake, they just can't handle the overblown metaphor with a straight face.
  • Patricia from San Bernardino, CaWhen I was growing up my friend's sister,Sue, formed a singing group. Can't remember the name but there were three girls whose names were Sue, Suzanne & Susie. Jimmy Webb wrote their music. They appeared on tv on a show (can't remember the name) sort of like American Bandstand. Jimmy would go over to Sue's house all the time as her family feed him. He was pretty poor. I saw him a few times while I was there. He went to San Bernardino Valley Jr College majoring in Music. While there a professor told him not to pursue music & flunked him.
    While writing music for the girls he fell in love with one of Suzanne's but she ended up marrying someone else.
    I heard that years later (after she was divorced) they ran into each other but ended up as friends. He wrote a song about Suzanne that played in 1967. Basically about how his heart broke after losing her. I'm trying to track down the band that recorded the song & the title.
    Also, there is a Mac Arthur's Park in downtown L.A. Probably the inspiration for his song.
  • Dirk from Nashville, TnCharles in New York--25 bonus points to you, my friend. Very nicely done. I'd also like to hear your take on Wichita Lineman now, if you are so inclined.
  • Samuel R. Smith from Evansville, Indiana, United StatesThis is not even close to being one of the five hundred worst songs of all time. It is a deep composition, and lyrically and allegorically is miles ahead of most pop tunes of 1968. Waylon's second rendering of the tune is marvelous but it lacks the great orchestral interlude of the original.
  • Jim from Columbia, ScCharles from New York, NY? Dude, send me some a that sh*t you're smoking
  • Denis from Toronto, CanadaRead most comments and I'm surprised I read no mention of Webb's own version on "Ten Easy Pieces-- just JW and his piano. Its simplicity is quite affecting and is a real contrast to the over-production (but great over-production!)of the Harris version. Webb's own version is my favourite. BTW, JW's "Ten Easy PIeces" is a masterpiece; his interpretation of "Wichita Lineman"is all deep but controlled longing. The master shines on this one!
  • Duke from Eastlake, OhThe beauty of this song is that it can mean so many diffent things to different people. That's the whole purpose of great art isn't it? It's a beautiful song and it will always bring back great memories for me. What's this about Richard Harris not being able to sing? Tell that to Josh Logan who picked him to play King Arthur in the musical "Camelot"! He toured with that show for over 25 years! Pretty good for a guy that can't sing!
  • Musicmama from New York, NcThis song is so bad that Donna Summer's version actually made more sense than Richard Harris's reading.
  • Charles from New York, NyOver the weekend I put on my English major's cap and did some thinking about the meaning of Jimmy Webb's lyrics to "MacArthur Park." I don't think it's quite as simple as Richard Harris's explanation would have it, that the song recounts the death of a hippie. I think, rather, that it is an allegory, conscious or not on the part of the song's creator, involving a young soldier or sailor who is traumatized by his experiences in Vietnam and who realizes that his one chance for pure joy has been lost.

    The opening lyrics set the tone of young lovers who once were innocent but who now know better. It was not they who led the dance but who followed the choreographed steps that a greater power had already written for them. They were grist for fate's mill, as it were.

    As for MacArthur Park and the cake, the park is of course real and the "cake" was indeed baked. It is common parlance to speak of our plans, hopes, and dreams to be half-baked or fully baked, and it isn't much of a stretch to use a cake image as a metaphor for the young man's plans for a life filled with the love of his life. The park was probably the last place that he got together with his girlfriend before he left for duty; maybe they made out there, maybe not. But he is clearly remembering every detail of their meeting someplace else. My guess is that he is experiencing some trauma, some violent episode, and is sublimating those intense feelings into recollections of his beloved and vivid memories of the time they spent that day in the park.

    The lines "I recall the yellow cotton dress foaming like a wave on the ground around your knees" always bothered me. Cotton does not foam. It can flow in the wind, but it is not a liquid or a gas. I believe that the young soldier is in fact seeing something violent with smoke or gas, maybe a napalm attack or a bombing raid or Agent Orange spraying or all of the above, and is so disturbed by it that he morphs the reality into the image of his girlfriend's yellow dress to endure the horror of the actual moment and retain his sanity. The birds in Vietnam that were falling dead to the ground are cradled like infants in his lover's hands, redeemed as he is by the power of loving memory.

    And the old men playing checkers by the trees takes on another, more ominous meaning too. Checkers, like chess, is a war game. The pieces are pawns, proxies for soldiers. Old men use young men as pawns. Old men play war games and get young men to fight them, and those young men's lives are forever changed. The trees of the park represent safety and cover the old men, which explains the need to defoliate or burn them down in Vietnam. Throughout all this, the symmetry is perfect; the young soldier uses his images of MacArthur Park to escape the hell of Vietnam that he finds himself trapped in.

    The "cake" that he baked half a world away lay ruined by "someone." Perhaps it was the Spring that never waited for him and his girlfriend, but in any event the cake, like its creator, was a pawn of fate, a larger set of circumstances beyond an individual's control. Amid all the sadness and grief over his immense loss, the soldier-narrator admits that he will survive and love someone else, that he will not be preoccupied with aging and death (looking at the sun), but that the love for the girl he had before fate and war intervened was irreplaceable and now forever lost. What he lost was his innocence and purity, and while one takes joy in life, one never forgets the elusive, idealized joy and all the dreams and hopes connected with it, because that's the one that got away.

    So that's my take on "MacArthur Park." Substitute Iraq for Vietnam, and the song is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" covered the same ground much more directly, but IMO "MacArthur Park" could be a fraternal if not identical twin. Your mileage may vary, as they say.
  • Ken from Bethlehem, Pamy favorite song -- have over 125 versions and besides haqrris, sommer and jennings the versions by Andy Williams, Glen Campbell and Jerry Vale are also excellent
  • Sam from Portsmouth, VaA great piece of literature. The only lyric I don't like is "it so long to bake it" because it sounds kind of corny.
  • Tony from Vero Beach, FlThe second, unattributed posting at the top of the page already makes one of the points I wanted to make here: Harris' performance is an "dramatic" performance more so than a "singing" performance. (For that fact, I can't fathom anyone anyone preferring Donna Summer's version: she merely sings the notes with no apparent understanding of the words.) (For another example of this, compare Tom Waits' version of "Somewhere" [from "West Side Story"] to Streisand's... You may not care for Waits' voice - but he *feels* the damned thing!)

    Some familiarity with Webb's songbook certainly helps with one's appreciation of this classic piece. His stuff is deep with "word pictures". Joe from Brooklyn had it right on this one, I think: the voice of the song comes from a guy who has been stood up. All the imagery is of the park and the wedding that was to take place there that morning (a "striped pair of pants" implying morning clothes). Night has now fallen, and he's been sitting in the park all day. The bridge of the song, with its mix of feelings ("I'm going to rise above this"/"No, I'm not") is truly gut-wrenching.

    For anyone who's ever genuinely had their heart broken, this is a masterful performance of a masterful work...
  • Jay from Minneapolis, MnI think this song gets a bad rep as it has been parodied and most people probably don't understand it.
    The song is, musically, extremely complex, considering its pop release. It has four sections, starting in one key , with 3 key changes and time signature changes; section two is a lament; the third section is in G minor, and the final section, which repeats the first, is in F major, not C.

    The song is initially a poem about love, then moves into a lover's lament, remembrance and sadness as nightfall comes upon MacArthur Park. Consider a visit to a lively park on a Sunday--if you were in a park at the end of the day, there would be notable sadness as the day comes to a close and the camaraderie has ended. (Perhaps the composer was trying to capture the painting "A Sunday in the Park on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Seurat or something similar.) Perhaps "someone left the cake out in the rain" is a lyric about the futility of trying to recapture life's better moments.

    MacArthur was covered over fifty times, including jazz composer Stan Kenton and trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. There were numerous orchestral and instrumental performances that were a challenge for the musicians.
  • Tanya from Lexington, KyMacArthur Park is my favorite song of all time. It is majestic and mysterious and I LOVE it -- but only Richard Harris' version, not Donna Summer's. (My co-workers, knowing this is my favorite song, once gave me a birthday card with a picture of a cake in the rain.)
  • Ricky from OhswekenSorry but personally I liken Richard Harris's version of this song to a really bad stick figure drawing. Donna Summer's version is the finished masterpiece of art.
  • Joe from Brooklyn, NyI was always told that it was about being stood up at a wedding. The wedding was to take place at MacArthur Park, the bride never showed up, and the cake was left in the rain. Makes sense with the overall feeling of lost love.
  • Caladbolg from Reston, VaBottom line. Jimmy Webb is still getting royalty checks from this song and laughing all the way to the bank.
  • Jean Mank from Mcveytown, PaSome more trivia: Jimmy wrote some or all of "MacArthur Park" on Buddy Greco's piano. Also, after the great success of the song became apparent, Harris bought Webb either a new Cadillac or a new Rolls-Royce. The last high notes on the song are NOT sung by Richard Harris, but by British singer Tony Burrowes, who later formed the group "Edison Lighthouse," whose one-hit wonder was "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes." I found this out when they were discussing the song on AM talk show and an old roomate of Burrowes called in and told the DJs! There is a point in the song where there is a bad edit, or wobble in the stereo. See if you can find it!
  • Steve from London, EnglandMMMMMM.......... its Saturday night and I was just listening to the
    ukalalie orchestra version of McArtur park...........I suddenly realised that the "Pearl & Dean" cinema adverising theme is in the song!
    Is it just me (fortified by a good meal and red wine)????
    Steve Smith, London, England
  • Levon from Dallas, TxThis song is awful. Not the worst, but certainly close.
  • Bruce from St. Pete, FlI had heard this song dozens of times by the late Summer of 1968. No one I knew really understood the lyrics but at least one of my friends did a hilarious job mimicing Richard Harris. The day before my first day of college in Sept. '68 I dropped orange sunshine with several of my friends. We were driving around Woburn, MA when the song came on the radio as we were all peaking. We laughed ourselves silly. It was one of those great moments when you wish you could be 18 forever. For that brief moment we all knew what the song really meant.
  • Tonnie from Orig. Ca Living In TnOne of my favorite songs in all the world. That's is; the rest has already been said.
  • Mitch from Grand Rapids, MiThis was a masterpiece and every bit as important
    to the world as a Picasso or Van Gogh.I know I will always treasure it that way.Much of the lyrics pertain to a lost love,but what about the
    lines"I will take my life into my hands and I
    will use it,I will win the worship in their eyes,
    and I will lose it"?These words make the song
    ever more mysterious.It's suggests gaining fame
    or admiration and then sliding into obscurity,
    just a footnote in the annals of history that
    so many have come to see themselves as.This is
    true genious.
  • Steve from Atlanta, GaI am a product of the 60's. When I first heard MacArthur Park I was immediately captivated by the unusual sound and lyrics, and the length of the song. It was practically unheard of for a songwriter of that day to pen such a lengthy work, but all things considered, it all works out wonderfully. My impression of MacArthur Park is that it is a sad love song. It is lamenting the ending of a relationship that has taken a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and time, sic, to build, and the person doing the lament is despairing of ever having the recipe to build such a deep, loving relationship again. I see the 'cake' as an allegorical symbol of that relationship. Relationships take a lot of kindness and tender loving care to nuture, and if both figures fail to constantly work at building that relationship, the 'cake' gets 'left out in the rain' and it begins to 'melt', sic.

    Actually, the central figure of the song is walking through MacArthur Park, a real park, located in Los Angeles, where he and his love spent many wonderful and gratifying moments and he is recalling those times, then he begins to sink into dispair in that he realizes that 'after all the loves of his life' he will never meet another who will touch him as the one he has lost, and in some later, grayer time, he realizes he will still be thinking of her...'and wondering why'....

    These are wonderful lyrics by Jimmy Webb and a wonderful rendering of song by Richard Harris. Don't forget that there are other fine songs on Harris' album, "A Tramp Shining", which features MacArthur Park, and that he did not 'talk the song' as others claim. Harris was a gifted singer as can also be noted in his rendering of "My Boy", of the album by the same name. Harris had a deep, mellow voice and was perfect for MacArthur Park.

  • Kent from Denver, CoCan anyone tell me if there is a version of MacArthur Park with a song similar to Simon and Garfunkle? I'm helping someone to locate this song.
  • Richard from Yorkshire, EnglandQuite the most beautiful and evocative song ever written. The Donna Summer version is by far the best sound ever recorded and I never tire of listening to it. The song is about looking back on lost love and youth and applies to us all. Wonderful stuff!
  • Henry from Kingston, NyAre you sure Jurassic Park is a parody of this?
  • Kirk from Denver, CoThis song is a classic. There is little doubt in my mind that Jimmy Webb penned a love song when he wrote this. It paints a picture of lost love and coming to grips with it. Not much unlike Pink Floyd lyrics which make you search for the meaning of the words, Jimmy used his twisted words to keep folks guessing the true meaning. This is the true sign of a great artist which I believe Jimmy was. What I found strange was the choice of Richard Harris to sing it. He was an actor, not a singer but still, he performed it brilliantly. Especially if you consider the weak and feable efforts of those who butchered the song after him. And yes Dave Barry was apparently left out in the rain and his gray matter melted, which no-one cared to remember the recipe anyways. If I had to rate MacArthur Park in the past 50 years, I would rank it in the top 25 of all tyme.
  • Jennifer from Los Angeles, CaThis song disturbed me when I was a little kid- I took it *literally* and thought it was such a shame that a perfectly good cake was left sitting out in the rain!
  • Clarke from Pittsburgh, PaThe posters who have called this song "part of the 60's movement" and a "taste of 1968" are quite right. I suspect it must sound a little pretentious to today's audiences, but it was revolutionary at the time, especially at that length (remember that contemporary music back then was largely limited to three-minute singles on AM radio). And, while Richard Harris is about as much of a singer as Rex Harrison was in "My Fair Lady," the lyrics and orchestration are incredibly moving. Many of us of a certain age will, in one way or another, "never have that recipe again." A lovely seven minutes, still well spent.
  • Brad from Cleveland, OhDiana Ross & The Supremes recorded a version of this song. I believe it was meant to be apart of their 1969 "Cream of The Crop" album, but it was cut. Their version is still unreleased.
  • John from Hinton Alberta, CanadaMacarthur park had a life of its own. The first really long song to hit the top 10. It is a poem and therefore is not meant to be read literally but interpreted by each person personally. It does a great job of describing a love affair oever too soon for at least one of the lovers.
  • Leonardo from Roma, ItalyTo Bruce in Boston: All the tracks in "A Tramp Shining" were indeed written, arranged and produced by Jimmy Webb. Another stand out song in the album is the opening "Didn't We", which was covered by Frank Sinatra. Sinatra's version is definitely amazing.
  • Kelly Mackenzie from Edmonton, CanadaMacArthur Park is a sad, touching song about a once wonderful relationship- one that comes along rarely. The lyrics reveal a lot about the sincerity, seriousness, and caring nature of the songwriter. Ironically, it was probably these very qualities that frightened the girl with the "yellow cotton dress." The "someone" that "left the cake out in the rain" was the perhaps unrealizing writer. Still, it was his qualities that no doubt made the "cake" originally, so he needs to try to be thankful for what he had. I had such a first hand experience and I no longer will be "wondering why." It is a forever melancholy thing, but we are human and find adjustments most difficult- especially when the needed adjustment is not even evident.

    Are you actually serious? I can't believe you are actually taking this song seriously. It's rather amusing. This song is about a freaking cake, and I don't think it is a metaphor, but if it is, it's a crappy metaphor. Next time, they need to get a song writer who can actually write a half decent song.

    melancholy relationship...yeah. sure.
  • Bruce from Boston, MaWhat would otherwise be extreme self-indulgence by Jimmy Webb and Richard Harris turns into something truly great. Not everyone can fully appreciate this sort of thing. It comes from a sentimental, melancholy place. Incidentally, the whole Richard Harris album that this comes from is quite good and includes songs like "The Paper Chase". I don't recall whether they are all written by Jimmy Webb. And don't miss Jimmy Webb's book on songwriting.
  • AnonymousMacArthur Park is a sad, touching song about a
    once wonderful relationship- one that comes along
    rarely. The lyrics reveal a lot about the
    sincerity, seriousness, and caring nature of the
    songwriter. Ironically, it was probably these very qualities that frightened the girl with the
    "yellow cotton dress." The "someone" that "left
    the cake out in the rain" was the perhaps
    unrealizing writer. Still, it was his qualities
    that no doubt made the "cake" originally, so he
    needs to try to be thankful for what he had.
    I had such a first hand experience and I no longer will be "wondering why." It is a forever
    melancholy thing, but we are human and find
    adjustments most difficult- especially when the
    needed adjustment is not even evident.
  • Greg from Victoria, CanadaI loved it at the time...part of the 60's movement. These days it's ok and ONLY ok!
  • Sean from Provo, UtI have to agree with the person who talked about Waylon Jenning's version. It's the best hands down. I'm listening to it right now...and drinking a nice scotch on the rocks.
  • Elisabeth from Branford, CtCall it kooky, but I remember listening to this song on the radio during a Greatest Hits Of All Time marathon on local radio station as a teen in the early 1980's. And the commentary about the song claimed that the song was in fact about Nuclear War and what it would mean for Planet Earth.Make of it what you will. However, this was in 1983-1984.The Cold War was in high gear; many people honestly believed a nuclear war between the USA and USSR was probable, it was the height of the Nuclear Freeze movement and it was the era of movies like The Day After, Testament, and Threads.
  • Karen from Radford, VaFor you fans of HP, you definitely need to check out a video a fan made to accompany this song. It's called "Remembering" and you can find it on As a tribute to an event in the sixth HP book, a very talented and funny fan made a touching and clever video with this song. Definitely worth a look.
  • Mike from Baltimore, MdWere have yall been? Do yall now were MacArthur Park is? Its in California. A park that was a beautiful place now fell to a hot spot for drug dealers, gang bangers, prostittution. He says somebody left the CRACK out in the rain not cake those lyrics are wrong. The part about not ever finding the recipe again is about cooking the crack up. The sweet green icing is the trees and grass beautiful. But the park melting in the dark is about the terrible that goes on there in the night. People on the streets refer to Crack as cake. C'mon people get some street sense.........
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoI was a kid when this was a hit, and I remember my best friend saying to me one day, "Do you hear what they're singing in this song? Someone left the cake out in the rain..." We both agreed on the spot that it was so stupid it was hard to believe they really sang that, and I was proud to hear this stupidity acknowledged by others years later. And don't worry, I KNOW it's metaphor, duh, but it's an incredibly stupid and cheesy metaphor. Well, not so much cheesy but floury, with icing! All that said, the song is definitely so bad it's good!!
  • Robb from Detroit, MiI would first just like to say that I am only 17 years of age, and even I love this song. And that leads me to my next concern. How does anyone not understand or miss the metaphor that blatantly sit in the lyrics of "MacArthur Park?" Harris doesn't sing about an actual physical cake that sat in the rain and melted, but rather uses the cake, rain, and park as a metaphor to a love he once had, but can never build again. It boggles my mind that people miss this.
  • AnonymousRichard Harris?...Richard Harris ?

    There is only one version of this wonderful song that fully conveys the richness and depth that this song brings to me.
    Waylon Jennings did a second version of this song(Revisited) that I would be entiely satisfied if it were played at my wake when the time comes.
    Listen to this version, it will haunt you for the rest of your days.
  • Michael from Westfield, NjWhat I heard years ago was that Webb wrote the song on a bet, that he could write an incredibly awful song and still make it a hit. Makes more sense than any other explanation I've heard.
  • Steve from Basingstoke, EnglandUntil you've heard this sung and played by the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, you haven't lived. Well you have, but not as well as you might :-) The melody is beautiful and you can whistle or hum it. (Any tune that you can't whistle or hum is not worth having as far as I'm concerned.) As for the lyric, well it's one of those that evokes memories, moods and emotions; it might not have an actual meaning but that doesn't matter. A bit like some of Dylan's.
  • Leonardo from Roma, ItalyThe song was recorded on 8-track, which was not at all common at the time. According to sound engineer Armin Steiner, the rhythm track was layed out at his own Sound Recorders studio on a custom-made 8-track recorder. This was built out of a monaural Ampex 200 deck, 4 packages of Ampex 2-track PR10 electronics and a custom-built head made by a Chicago company called IEM. The resulting tape was then sent to Landsdowne Studios in London, where they had to assemble their own 8-track recorder out of Scully parts in order to record Harris' vocals (for reference:

    Apparently, Harris could not enter the US on account of drug charges.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesHave to agree with Jim Chadwick about the timing. I am of an age with Chadwick and have extremely vivid memories of that time period, but wanted to confirm my memories by checking the WLS surveys (since that was the station I listened to at the time). Billboard's charts may not match up with these 100%. However, "MacArthur Park" debuted at #39 on the WLS hit parade for 6 May, 1968. It rose to #5 by 3 June and remained on the chart for two months. "Hey Jude" debuted at #31 on 2 September and left the chart as of 18 November. In fact, because of the interesting lyrics and suite-like structure of "MacArthur Park", it actually seemed to be much shorter than "Hey Jude," whose length was achieved via a series of interminable la-las, very similar to Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" the following year.
  • Jerry from Brooklyn, NySome people cannot deal with metaphorical language -- lyrics have to be clear and distinct and overt. Others can over-interpret and see things that were not intended. Still others are so pretentious that they believe there must be deep meaning when there is none. I was impressed and entranced by the lyrics when this song was first released when I was 20. So many years later, the music and the arrangement still impress me but the lyrics seem banal and obscure. Maybe it meant something to Webb when he wrote it. They seem to get rather sillier to me as time passes; getting sillier all the time.
  • Frank from Atlanta, GaI came of age in the 60's. This song touched my heart and soul and still does to this day. The lyrics reach into the inner being of everyone who has love and lost. Regonize it as an anthem for the time and love it or leave it. Peace, love,Rock and Roll...
    Frankie D
  • Ema from Cairns, AustraliaIt's quite simple really, there was a picnic in the park and it started raining. Some silly sod let the cake get wet. The cake was really big ("it took so long to bake it") so they had to clean up the mess. They used a napkin but the recipe was written on the napkin, so the recipe was lost and they can't make the cake again.

    It's all a bit over the top and dramatic for a bloody cake if you ask me, but I did get rather emotional myself when I found a pubic hair in my chocolate eclair. Still tasted okay though.
    The eclair was pretty good too.
  • Bill from Mcrae, Arafter "By the time I get to Phoenix" by Jinmmy Webb, could there be any doubt about how great Macarthur park was, both killer songs, don't understand what the lyrics mean , but there are some great lines and I accept it as is, it's awesome listening...
  • Ken from Ellicott City, MdMacArthur Park is in Los Angeles. A friend was driving me past and announced it casually. I leapt out of the car and went to see the table where the old men play checkers. In London in the mid-sixties I picked my girlfriend up in her Soho bed-sitter. She was wearing a flared yellow cotton dress. We never made the date. 'And after all the loves of my life' is a beautiful line. The song is full of young love, passion, romance, winsomeness, hopelessness, and nostalgia. I have always loved it, but applied it to the era of the sixties rather than a particular romance. We will never have the recipe for that era again, and it was the explosion of new and innovative music that was at the core of the revolution. It melted after Altamount and the inevitable fallout from too much drugs and irresponsibility.

    I love Jimmy Webb's writing (the only time I ever sang karaoke I sang 'Wichita Lineman' and 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix'). I love Richard Harris's interpretation but Maynard Ferguson's version set me on fire. Maynard was the trumpet-playing Canadian who took a lot of the high notes for the Stan Kenton band before he formed his own. I used to follow Maynard around the country and go to his concerts just waiting for the big moment. At a high school in Chicago, the band members were filtering back after intermission. The lights dimmed. I got out of my seat and found a place on the floor near the stage. Maynard entered in a white suit, came straight to the front of the stage and hit the first four notes really hard with his big band swinging in behind. I was first on my feet, but no-one was left sitting. The large break was dominated by a beautiful baritone sax solo, and I believe this time it was taken by a young New Zealander. I interviewed Maynard backstage on the Boston Common and asked him what he tried to express with his music. He had one word: 'Joy.' It turns out that Maynard was instrumental in turning on Timothy Leary in Leary's first experiment with LSD and Maynard told me his hair turned white after hanging out with Leary.

    When I lived in New York in the 1970s Alison Steele ('The Night Bird') used to play MacArthur Park on WNEW-FM. I got into the habit of calling her up. We would chat about the song (and 'Layla') and other things, and there was plenty of time because it was much longer than other songs. Her sister opened a cat shop across the river and I met them both at the opening.

    For me, the mystery and beauty of the lines set in the gorgeous melody of MacArthur Park are only matched by 'A Whiter Shade of Pale.'
  • Anna from Houston, TxDoes anyone know the name of the 22 minute cantata to which MacArthur Park is the coda? (I haven't been able to find it - nor any mention other than the one on this site.) If we could read the cantata, the coda (MP) may make even more sense. Since the park is that which is melting then it would seem the green icing is falling off the park -whatever the park represents. Perhaps the green icing has nothing to do with the cake?

    Anna, Houston TX
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnDespite the numerous negative reviews of MacArthur Park, it's one of my all-time favorite songs. It's one of the best written songs ever, sounding like a miniature symphony. This was also the first Top 40 hit to run over seven minutes and put Richard Harris on the map as a singer, though he mistakenly sang "MacArthur's Park" throughout the song. Many DJs appreciated the song's length because it gave them time to go to the bathroom.
  • Karen from Byron Bay, Austriamacarthur park is the relationship. The cake is everything that was put into the relationship to make it what it is ( it takes a lot of ingredients to make a cake or a relationship). The cake being left out in the rain and melting is saying that the relationship is not being nurtured and is melting and falling apart. The part where he says "i dont think that i can take it because it took so long to bake it and i'll never have the recipe again" means he is having trouble coming to terms with the fact that it took a lot of time and effort to get this beautiful relationship and now its falling apart because its not being looked after and all the special qualities poured into the relationship will never be able to be duplicated.
  • Dan from Omaha, NeI first became a fan of Richard Harris in his breakout movie, "A Man Called Horse". I was nearly awestruck when I heard him 'singing' this masterpiece. Has always been one of my all-time favorites. I used to hang out at MacArthur Park in L.A., and always thought of him and this song when there.
  • Tom from Washington, DcThis song has inspired more comments than any other I've come across on this website, surely that says something. Raven Records recently released the complete Jimmy Webb/ Richard Harris sessions, I highly recommend it, also included is the rare follow up "The Yard Went On Forever"
  • Jeffrey from Hilversum, NetherlandsAbout the Lyrics...
    As earliers said in some postings (Jonnie St. Louise): The Cake is a metaphore for a relationship. According to mister Webb himself he wrote it in a psychadelic time and (in his own words) there were lot of more songs with 'strange' lyrics at that time. He told us so in an interview for Dutch National Radio 2 a couple of months ago.
    - jeffrey williams /host dutch national radio 2 Holland
  • Tim from Perht, Walook: it's as simple as this. This apples to all poetry.

    It's written with an encrypted message that only the author can truely fathom. Unless you have lived his life and experienced his experiences, you can never know what they meant by the poetry. For this reason there is never a determinable or conclusive meaning. It is what you make it. You must draw on your own life experience and relate it to yourself.

    There is no point in explaining to others what the author intended because it changes for everyone that hears it. I can't bear to see people squabbling with eachother over the meaning of a piece of art like this. I'm not saying you shouldn't express your own ideas just that other people can think whatever the they want.
  • 3rdbase from Bloomfield, FlThis song has different meaning to different people. In a sense, it really doesn't matter what special meaning Jimmy Webb had for himself when he wrote the lyrics. The message becomes personal. And maybe that's what makes this song so great. It's almost like reading the Bible. We take from it whatever special meaning we want and apply it to ourselves. I can think of no other song that can truly be compared to a Biblical experience.

    That being said, Jimmy Webb deserves greater recognition for his creativity in this song. It combines classical, rock, soul (not hard or soft) but medium jazz and an innovative Biblical writing style in the song. (Again, Biblical because you get from it whatever you wish). As we've seen, there are an infinite number of sentiments/ meanings that you can get from this song.
  • Dennis from Jacksonville, FlALRIGHT....THATS IT....JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT YOU HEARD IT ALL....SOMETHING OR SOMEONE COMES ALONG WITH SOME SORT OF IDIOCY TO TOP IT. Look...MP is a masterpiece. Anyone who would even be caught actually watching Simon Cowell on TV, let alone listening to the man is as full of BS as Cowell himself. Cmon!!!!!!!! Stop it. And why in the name of he!! would a classic genius of an actor such as Richard Harris be caught dead singing lyrics about LSD induced orgasms!!!! The moderator of this board will trash the original posting for the idiotic disrespect it displays or lose all credibility. MP is an all time masterpiece. Shame on the stupid people of the world, such as Cowell and the idiot who posted this crap. NOW>>>EVERYONE CAN GO IN PEACE AND LISTEN TO MP AND SAVOR EACH AND EVERY WONDEROUS NOTE AND LYRIC FOR WHAT IT TRULY IS>>>A FRAKKING MASTERPIECE DAMMIT!
  • Jim Chadwick from Oceanside, CaAnybody know where a digital version of this record can be purchased online? iTunes does not presently carry the Richard Harris version, just the later Donna Summer remake as well as some more obscure covers.
  • Jim Chadwick from Oceanside, CaHave to disagree with an item under "Song Facts." While I was only 11 in 1968, I have a vivid memory of the music of that year; it was the first year I started listening to the radio and discovering pop music and rock and roll. I distinctly remember hearing "MacArthur Park" by at least the spring of 1968. At that point, I wasn't quite yet a Beatles fan, but I became one just prior to the release of "Hey Jude." I remember there was much anticipation and much hoopla around the release of the Beatles' "new single" which I remember hearing for the first time late in the summer of that year. So I think the stated fact that "Hey Jude" came out before "MacArthur Park" and that the former paved the way for the latter to get full air play is mistaken.
  • Leya Qwest from Anchorage, AkYes, I agree with Don of VA and Cris of Netherlands. I was in L.A. when the hit came out and was I ever hooked eventhough myself and a million other people didn't "get it", but I knew it was something big. I've always thought the upbeat instrumental strings and horns section simply fantastic and personally the best part of the song. Everytime I hear MP I get all choked up 'cuz I remember being this dopey seventh grade kid who loved art and had dreams of passion and adventure and now that time of youth and wonder are gone forever. I also think of how America and our planet were transforming intellectually, morally and technologically during those mad, beautiful and never-to-be topped '60's. That's okay, as I'm baking other cakes now before I become one of those old men playing checkers in the park. BADDA BING!
  • Don K. Miles from Colonial Heights, VaTo those asking all of the questions as if this is a mystery cloaked in the mists of Devoshire.

    This song and all of its mystery is simply a taste of 1968. If you were fortunate enough to be in Los Angeles during that time that taste is still sweet and Macarthur Park and Jimmy Webb is more than a know what I mean.
  • Cris from Lelystad, NetherlandsMany of these comments smell of over-zealous english teachers ordering the kids to do close reading until they drop dead. I love this song just BECAUSE it evokes nothing else but a fleeting experience captured forever in a beautiful song. Why look for hidden meanings? Who needs them? And Richard Harris has a fantastic singing voice!
  • Brian from Meriden, CtJimmy Webb was certainly a brilliant songwriter. Richard Harris could certainly emote with his acting abilities and, yes, sing. He recorded many songs in his own brand of baroque folk. My conclusion is whether this song has deep, poignant value or is somehow just about sex and drugs, great songwriting and a great, emotive vocal style can convince the emotions, even if its just about LSD and oral sex. Somehow I don't buy that, though.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesA bit lurgid, but all right. I heard this song's debut on WLS upon the day of its release. The announcer (who may well have been Art Roberts judging by the time of day I seem to remember -- mid- to late afternoon) referred to it intriguingly as "a psychedelic show". My initial impression was that it seemed to be influenced by the Beatles' recent efforts, cf. the use of an orchestra and incomprehensible yet meaningful lyrics. I assumed it was about experiencing feelings of sorrow and regret over a love relationship that didn't work out, while on an acid trip in a beautiful English park (probably where the couple used to meet) with slow, steady rain falling. I still think that's what it was about and that Simon Cowell is having us on.

    I like the explanation from Hylas though. That would make a hysterical video!
  • Jack from Annan, ScotlandHello everybody! I stumbled across this website whilst researching another song, and I couldn't help but state for the record what was said about the meaning of the lyrics on British Television last year. I'm definitely not a music aficionado, nor do I have proof (or totally believe) of what was said, but if the censors will allow me to be so bold, I'll tell you all what was said on the programme. The TV show was called 'X Factor', Simon Cowell's new 'Pop Idol/American Idol/Australian Idol' (etc), and one of the female contestants (someone I only remember as 'Rowetta') was to perform the song in the vein of the Donna Summer version (and she sang it superbly, incidentally). No matter, they talked about the meaning of the lyrics on their post-show 'X-tra Factor' programme, and Simon Cowell *revealed* that he'd spoken with 'a friend-of-a-friend' of Jimmy Webb some years ago and, despite what Webb may have said about the philosophical side to the song, the meaning of the lyrics are quite different. *Allegedly*, the song is simply about sex and drugs with a lot of humour injected into it. Cowell was quite graphic with his revelations, so I'm not sure as to what passes and what's rejected on this website, so forgive me for my indistinct explanation. As for the drugs aspect to the song, the references to 'the park melting' is basically a mention of Webb experimenting with LSD. If you read the lyrics of the song, you're able to read between the lines and 'see' other references too. As for the sexual references, Webb's 'friend' allegedly stated that Jimmy was writing about (and I hope he wasn't married at the time or I'm blowing the lid of his extra-marital activities!) an encounter in Macarthur Park with a girl he knew previously, but this was their one and only 'sexual' encounter. I'll briefly skip over this part, but the lyrics about 'leaving the cake out in the rain' is *allegedly* Webb's female companion's description of the oral sex committed on her by Webb - the first time she'd experienced this from a guy, and 'I don't think I can take it'it took so long to bake it'.and I'll never have the recipe again' was written from her own perspective (whether it was true or not) about her experiences, whether she would meet a guy prepared to do that again to her, and whether or not she'd achieve the same 'orgasm'. As for the humour, well, Webb didn't want the true lyrical meaning revealed so, according to Cowell, he injected 'nonsense' into the song so people wouldn't make a connection to what he was really writing about.

    Irrespective of this being true, Richard Harris and Donna Summer have both previously went on record and stated the song is about drug-taking (I read recently that Harris said in an interview that the lyrics 'Macarthur's Park is melting' and 'I'll never have this recipe again' was definitely a reference to *the character's* first time experiences whilst on LSD) and Summer also stated (without going into any detail whatsoever) that the song is laced with sexual innuendos and Webb had always intended a woman to sing it.

    So that's what was 'revealed' on British TV last year. In spite of it being a true explanation, I totally love this song (even if I enjoy listening to Donna Summer's version better!)
  • Melaska from Valdez, AkI just now downloaded this much-loved song from my youth and I can't listen to it often enough. I cannot believe the ridicule this song has gotten over the years. I really like Jonnie's explanation which has deepened my own understanding. "The "cake" is the love that was shared by the two who were involved." The middle portion of this song is so heartbreaking and beautiful. Without the metaphoric understanding you really can't get it.
  • Rita from Geneva, SwitzerlandI was 23 and sitting in a pub called the Deacons with a boyfriend. It was just before Christmas and we swapped presents as we wouldn't be seeing each other over Christmas itself. MacArthur Park was played several times on the jukebox as it was very unusual and very popular at the time. That boyfriend was killed in a car accident not too long after. I've since been married twice, moved to Switzerland and have a grown up family. Still, from time to time I hear that song in my mind, and particuarly the words "after all the loves of my life, I'll be thinking of you, and wondering why".
  • Scott from Chicago, IlI remember that this song seemed very important
    and of consequence wqhen it first came out.....
    the "someone left a cake out"...made sense, as cryptic as it was, because lennon and dylan already hit the top 40 with meaningless, yet
    meaningful lyrics....I actually got sad as a
    kid when harris mentioned, "it took song long to bake it, i'll never have that recipe again"...
    though why couldn't he have simply wrote it down?
    was he illiterate? couldn't he have remembered
    it as a pinch of this and pinch of that?
    Emeril and Rachel Ray would never have let that happen>
  • Adrian from Brisbane, AustraliaI think the meaning is:
    People keep on giving me fish food
  • Ashley from Charleston, WvI can't believe no one has yet mentioned the references to this song in an early episode of "The Simpsons." In the "Little Miss Springfield" episode, an East Indian girl (maybe Apu's child?) chooses this song to play on the tabla for the talent portion of the pageant. This, of course, bores everyone in the audience to tears (except her own family, naturally).
  • Tom from Warren, RiOne of my favorites since I first heard it 30 years ago. While Jimmy Webb may have had his own meaning, mine was always a lost love that could never be refound. Richard Harris delivered the absolute best version. This is songwriting genius!
  • Jenifer from Tokyo, JapanI love this song, that's all.
  • Rob from Sydney, AustraliaI have to question why people need to put an interpretation on a song like this, or for that matter, any piece of poetry. How does one know what the artist was thinking about when they wrote the piece and why does it have to have a precise and invariable meaning?

    Isn't it enough that somebody can write a song and somebody (the same artist or someone else) perform it in away that generates a feeling in other human beings that makes them want to hear it again?

    That is what this song represents to me. I can listen to the words and feel that they articulate something that I felt a one point in my life.

    Those feelings are intensely personal and I am grateful that there are people in the world like Jimmy Webb and Richard Harris who can create a series of sounds and words that evoke those feelings again.

    Thanks for the website
  • Dennis from Syracuse, NyI couldn't believe this song is listed as one the top 10 worst songs.As a musician myself i think the lyrics are magical.I always thought( and still do) that it was a wonderful, lighthearted song that touchs my heart still to this day.As for the people who think this song stinks, all i will say to them is that most of them probably still have their 45 of " My Boy Lolipop".
  • Doug from Minneapolis, MnElvis Presley does a wonderful aping of this song for a couple of lines during one of his "sit-down" concerts on the 1968 Comeback Special CD/DVD. Richard Harris came to our high school in Ohio in the mid 1980s supporting a touring theatre production of Camelot. Our student council president introduced him by listing his many accomplishments, in descdending order, beginning with "Camelot" to "A Man Called Horse" (Parts 1, 2 and 3) and "Orca the Killer Whale" culminating in "perhaps his most brilliant work to date, 'Tarzan, the Ape Man.'" No one but myself (and Richard, of course) seemed to know what went down. I'll never forget it, but the idiots who ran the yearbook completely ignored the event and no record of his visit exists at the school to this day!
  • Stephen from Sydney, Australiaps: this song has also appeared on BEST 10 song lists as well

    remember: the bottom line is this:


    To put it another way for you academic types out there: there exists no, objective criteria, external the any observer, by which the relative merits of any two pieces of music can be compared.

    If anyone can prove to me that such as objective criteria exists I something really diffult.

  • Stephen from Sydney, AustraliaThanks jonnie king. You helped clarify some things. However, its worth noting I loved the song without knowing that interpretation. I did think I understood the visual underpinnings fo the cake metaphor: It seems to me a park with lots of thick green foliage, in absolutedly pouring rain would vaguely suggest a big green cake melting in the rain.
  • Xavier from Noisy Le Sec, FranceThe song is great. Dave Barry is a moron. Period.
  • Beth from Phoenix, AzJimmy Webb was a master at lyrics and Richard Harris was the only voice to bring real life to his music. Webb wrote and composed from his heart strings and Harris delivered it all to us with love. MacAthur Park has different meanings to many of us. For me, I lost a love in a car crash and he is 'the cake' that was left out in the rain...And I will never have that recipe again. Let music and the song take you where it will, do not try so hard to understand the meaning. Make it memorable for you! Beth in Phoenix
  • Sonia Maria from São Paulo, BrazilI am Sonia Maria.
    MacArthur Park is my favorite song. I am from Brazil and I love Richar Harris' voice.
    This song is one of wonderful songs in the world.
  • Keith from Slc, UtOnly Jimmy Webb could have gotten away with this song. Interesting sound, DEEEEEEP lyrics. Definitely not a bubblegum song.
  • R from Seattle, WaOne of the "Worst Song Ever" awards for this song was given in a poll taken by humor columnist Dave Barry. He wrote a column in which he ridiculed the lyrics of "I Am, I Said" by Neil Diamond. Diamond's fans buried him with hate mail, but other readers wrote in venting about pop songs they hated. He turned it into a poll, and eventually a book, "Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs". I HIGHLY recommend this book. It is Dave Barry at his best.
  • John from Elon, NcIn my opinion one of the most annoying songs to ever top the charts. The lyric explanations that have been given make sense but that's no saving grace for the mediocre melody. The only thing that would have made this song slightly less excrutiating would be to cut it down to 2 minutes.
  • Dat Le from Katy, TxParodied by Weird Al. "Jurassic Park", there's even a music video
  • Shirley from Ocean, NjThanks Jonnie, I love the song even more now.
  • Jonnie from St. Louis, MoThis song is essentially a Shakespearean Tragedy
    in just over 7 Minutes. My first job as a Radio
    Personality came in the Fall of 1967, prior to
    that I had been an actor for many years.

    As Air Personality and Music Director at the Radio
    Station I was working for I used the "MacArthur
    Park" as a "Pick Hit" when I first heard it in
    around April of 1968. The song was on surveys
    across the country for over 3 months during the
    Spring/Summer of 1968.("Hey Jude" by the Beatles
    didn't arrive until the Fall of 1968.) In fact, I
    still have the 45 Rpm Record & Picture Sleeve with
    the lyrics to "MacArthur Park" in my collection.

    After the record became a hit, and at my next
    Radio Station, I was asked by an English teacher
    at one of the local high schools to give a talk
    and an explanation about the song and the lyrics.
    I got many "thank you's" from the students and the
    teacher after my presentation, because, yes the
    lyrics are metaphors of a much larger nature than
    just "a cake" being left out in the rain.

    The song is basically about a love affair that
    dissolved...melted away. The "cake" is the love
    that was shared by the two who were involved. Love
    can take a long time to evolve ("I don't think that I can make it, 'cause it took so long to bake
    it and I'll never have that recipe again...")
    He knows that he'll never a love in the same way
    that he had that one.

    But his life will go on, he'll love again. "But
    after all the loves of my life, I'll be thinking
    of you, and wondering why..." Why didn't it work
    out ? We've all been there, but Jimmy Webb put
    into a contemporary Shakespeare Format for all to
    ponder. And that song, and the entire "A Tramp
    Shining" Album, are among the most treasured
    pieces of my entire music collection.

    If you have any further questions or comments
    about the song or the LP, please drop me a note. Many Thanks.
  • Kay from Wakefield, MaI love this song! It's so deep and beautiful. Donna Summer gave this such a bad rep with her version...
  • Pete from Nowra, AustraliaRichard Harris also sang the song wrong ,he sang MacArthurs Park with an s on the end ,it should've been MacArthur park ,no s.
  • Dc from Hilo, HiWaylon Jennings won a grammy in 1969 for his version of this song.
  • Hylas from Boston, MaThe cake is simply a rather prosaic metaphor for an elaborate creation that required many ingredients, perhaps luck and the confluence of several favorable factors, to come out just right, and might suggest a wedding or another occasion for celebration; all ruined by some careless oversight by someone who after all that left it out in the rain. resulting in a huge mess of melting frosting & soggy baked matter, & what's worse, our protagonist has forgotten the recipe, so he's there in the park in the pouring rain in his tuxedo with frosting all over himself and soggy cake chunks in his hair. So naturally he's distraught.
  • John from Canberra, AustraliaJimmy Webb explained that the lyrics about the park melting refer to the central character looking at the park while crying, so the park appeared to be melting. He never explained the signifigance of the cake.
  • Vic Glazer from Boca Raton, FlAfter all these years, I'm still trying to figure out what Jimmy Webb means with these lyrics??
see more comments

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