Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Celebration of the Music of Jimmy Webb at Carnegie Hall

Michael Dorf, founder of City Winery, has been promoting concerts for nearly 30 years, and among his most popular series is the annual "Music of" concerts at Carnegie Hall, which bring in a wide range of musical artists to pay tribute to one of their own. This year's concert was billed as A Celebration of the Music of Jimmy Webb, held on May 3, 2017, and featured performances by Hanson, Judy Collins, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr., B.J. Thomas, Liz Callaway, Sheléa, Johnny Rivers, Graham Nash, Art Garfunkel, Dwight Yoakam, Ashley Campbell, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Feinstein, Toby Keith and Amy Grant. Webb also performed and occasionally accompanied performers on piano.

Webb offered accolades to absentees Glen Campbell and Linda Ronstadt, both of whom recorded several of Webb's songs but could not travel to the tribute. Campbell has been sidelined by Alzheimer's Disease and Ronstadt is working through Parkinson's Disease. The concert benefitted the Alzheimer's Association and the I'll Be Me Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those suffering from or caring for people with Alzheimer's.

Although it was never mentioned from the stage, the concert tied in with the release of Webb's memoir, The Cake and the Rain, which was published on April 18, 2017.

Former teen idols Hanson, who like Webb hail from Oklahoma, opened the evening singing a cappella the first verse and chorus of "Oklahoma Nights." The three brothers, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson, harmonized well on the song that Webb originally recorded with Vince Gill in 2010.
Actor Michael Douglas introduced the show by speaking of Webb as a friend and acknowledging Webb's songwriting legacy.
Judy Collins
Judy Collins sat at the grand piano and performed "The Moon's a Harsh Mistress," a Webb song she recorded in 1975. Ronstadt, Campbell and Joe Cocker also recorded the song.

Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.
Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. were the lead vocalists of the 5th Dimension, and backed by the house band reprised the vocal group's biggest hit, Webb's "Up, Up and Away," from 50 years ago.
As McCoo exited the stage, Davis shared that he had recorded Webb's "Worst That Could Happen" in 1968, then sang the song that became a hit for Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge.

B.J. Thomas
B.J. Thomas, also from Oklahoma, sang "Do What You Gotta Do," a song also recorded by Johnny Rivers, Nina Simone and others.

Liz Callaway, perhaps best known for singing Stephen Sondheim songs on Broadway and singing for animated films, performed "Still Within the Sound of My Voice," also recorded by Glen Campbell.

Hanson returned for "Highwayman," a song recorded first by Webb, then Campbell, and then jointly by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson, who named themselves the Highwaymen in honor of the Webb composition. The Hanson brothers sang in three-part harmony rather than rotating vocals like the Highwaymen did.

Shelea
Sheléa, who was introduced as having sung with Stevie Wonder, performed "Shattered," previously sung by Art Garfunkel on Webb's own Still Within the Sound of My Voice album. Sheléa began the song on piano, then moved to center stage to belt the remainder of the song.

Johnny Rivers
Johnny Rivers, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, performed "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," which he recorded in his 1965. Campbell had the hit in 1967.

Jimmy Webb
Jimmy Webb came on stage and sat at the piano. He described "Galveston," another song associated with Campbell, as "the reason I'm sitting up here tonight." He dedicated the song to American military personnel "who made the ultimate sacrifice," as well as his own father.

Graham Nash
Graham Nash joined Webb for a duet on "If These Walls Could speak."

Art Garfunkel
Webb also accompanied Art Garfunkel on piano for "All I Know," which Garfunkel had recorded on his first post-Simon & Garfunkel album.

Dwight Yoakam
Dwight Yoakam explained how Glen Campbell sought another "city" song from Webb after he hit with "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Galveston." Webb wrote "Wichita Lineman" for Campbell and it became another hit in 1968. Yoakam performed the song in his own style, adjusting to a faster tempo and adding a guitar solo.

Ashley Campbell
Michael Douglas introduced Campbell's youngest daughter, Ashley Campbell, who played banjo and sang "You Might As Well Smile," which her dad originally recorded in 1974.

Catherine Zeta-Jones
Douglas' wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, performed "Didn't We," which she introduced as a song that "puts the spotlight on Jimmy the poet."

Michael Feinstein
Michael Feinstein sang "Only One Life," which he recorded in 2003.

Toby Keith
Toby Keith announced that his subsequent performance would be "the most challenging of my career," and it turned out to be the highlight of the program. "MacArthur Park" had been a hit for Richard Harris, Waylon Jennings and Donna Summer. Webb to the stage and the piano halfway through the song, when the composition moved from a slow and soft crooner to a rousing, complex piece.

Amy Grant
Webb remained on stage for "Adios," recorded by Ronstadt and Campbell. Webb sang the first two verses and then had Amy Grant sing.


For the concert finale, all the performers returned to the stage for a reprise of "Up, Up and Away."