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." (Read more in our full interview with Jimmy Webb