Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Jimmy Webb

Southern Nights

Written and first recorded by Allen Toussaint (1975).
Hit version by Glen Campbell (US #1/MOR #1/C&W #1/CAN #1/UK #28/AUS #36/NZ #10/IRE #3 1977).

From the wiki: “‘Southern Nights’ was written and recorded by Allen Toussaint, from his 1975 album, Southern Nights. It was later recorded by Glen Campbell, with a more up-tempo arrangement and modified lyrics (and a unique guitar lick that Campbell had learned from his friend, Jerry Reed), and released as the first promotional single from Campbell’s 1977 album, also titled Southern Nights.

“The lyrics of ‘Southern Nights’ were inspired by childhood memories Allen Toussaint had of visiting relatives in the Louisiana backwoods, which often entailed storytelling under star-filled nighttime skies. When Campbell heard Toussaint’s version, he immediately identified with the lyrics because they too reminded him of his own youth growing up on an Arkansas farm.


First recorded by Linda Ronstadt (1989).
Hit album version by Glen Campbell (2017).
Also recorded by Jimmy Webb (1993).

From the wiki: “‘Adiós’ was written by hit songwriter Jimmy Webb (‘Up, Up and Away‘,’By the Time I Get to Phoenix‘), and was first recorded by Linda Ronstadt in 1989 for her album Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind. Webb recorded his own arrangement in 1993 for his album Suspending Disbelief.

“The song became more widely, and poignantly, known, in 2017 when Glen Campbell’s recording was released two months before his death in August, 2017, and also used as the title song of his final album, Adiós. Featuring twelve songs Campbell had long loved but never recorded, the album was made with the help of producer and longtime collaborator Carl Jackson. Singers Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and Campbell’s children Ashley, Shannon and Cal also make guest appearances.


First recorded by Don Ho (1968).
Hit version by Glen Campbell (US #4/C&W #1/UK #14/CAN #2/AUS #5/NZ #3 1969).

From the wiki: “Composer Jimmy Webb (‘Up, Up and Away‘, ‘The Worst That Could Happen‘, ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix‘) was on a beach in Galveston, Texas, when he wrote the song ‘Galveston’, making up the story about a Spanish-American war soldier and the girl he left behind. ‘Galveston’ was originally recorded by Don Ho, releasing it in 1968 as the B-side of his single ‘Has Anybody Lost A Love?’ with no chart impact.

“Ho recalled he gave Campbell a copy of the single and told him, ‘I didn’t have any luck with this, maybe you will.’ Ho would later appear on Campbell’s TV variety show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour in Oct. 1969 to perform the song.

By the Time I Get to Phoenix

First recorded by Johnny Rivers (1965).
Hit version by Glen Campbell (US #26/C&W #2/CAN #1 1967).

From the wiki: “‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ was written by Jimmy Webb (‘Up, Up and Away‘). Originally recorded by Johnny Rivers in 1965 on his album Changes it would be made famous by Glen Campbell, appearing as the opening and title track on Campbell’s 1967 album By the Time I Get to Phoenix. Campbell’s recording reached #2 on the US Country Singles chart in 1968, and #26 on the Billboard Hot 100, and would go on to win two Grammy Awards in 1968: Best Vocal Performance (Male), and Best Contemporary Male Solo Vocal Performance. Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) has named ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ the third most-performed song from 1940 to 1990. Frank Sinatra called it ‘the greatest torch song ever written.’

The Worst That Could Happen

First recorded by The 5th Dimension (1967).
Hit version by The Brooklyn Bridge (US #3 1969).
Also recorded by Jimmy Webb (1996).

From the wiki: “‘The Worst That Could Happen’ was originally recorded by The 5th Dimension for their 1967 album of nearly all-Jimmy Webb-composed songs, The Magic Garden. The song depicts a man reflecting on an affair he’d had with a woman with whom he is still in love, but who is about to marry someone else. It has been stated that, along with ‘MacArthur Park’ and ‘By The Time I Get to Phoenix‘, ‘The Worst That Could Happen’ is about a relationship that Webb had had with a woman named Susan.

“Webb’s song was later recorded by Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge and reached the Billboard Hot 100’s Top-40 in 1969.

“The song is noted for the quoting of Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’ from the incidental music to ‘A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream’, which is heard at the song’s end, which in the Brooklyn Bridge version, is played by a handful of trumpets, while in the Fifth Dimension version, is played by an electric organ.

“Jimmy Webb recorded his own version of the song for his 1996 album Ten Easy Pieces.”

Up, Up and Away

First recorded by The Sunshine Company (1967).
Hit versions by The 5th Dimension (US #7/MOR #9/CAN #1/AUS #1 1967), Johnny Mann Singers (UK #6 1967).

From the liner notes to The Best of the Sunshine Company:

“The Sunshine Company’s very name summons the spirit of the mini-genre of 1960s pop-rock that, long after its heyday, was named Sunshine Pop. So does their music, with the requisite exquisite multi-part male-female harmonies, buoyant optimism, and luxuriant late-1960s L.A. studio production … a brief career that whisked them through the orbits of the Carpenters, the 5th Dimension, Jackson Browne, the Jefferson Airplane, Mary McCaslin, and John Davidson, ending at the even unlikelier destination of a pre-stardom Gregg Allman.