When Limerick composer Bill Whelan heard that the Crescent College Comprehensive past pupils orchestra wanted to play MacArthur Park at their celebratory concert last weekend, he rang Jimmy Webb, who actually composed the song. Jimmy Webb (composer of other classics such as Wichita Lineman, Galveston, and By the Time I Get to Phoenix) subsequently sent Bill Whelan an email which contains an amusing story about the song and Richard’s Harris’ bagging of it as his very own. Bill Whelan and Richard Harris (pictured here in a still from This Sporting Life) are both past pupils of the Crescent. Bill is meeting Jimmy Webb in New York this week where he will get him to sign the email so the school can have it for their archives. You can read the email below.
Dearest students of Crescent College,
I thank you most profusely for performing such an ancient piece of pop music, almost 50 years old now, but ask you to consider that it was written by a young man about the same age as some of you, and to forgive most kindly any errors or encroachments on good taste that you may find lurking in your horn. The great dynamo behind the unprecedented success of “MacArthur Park” (in its day it was the longest and loudest song ever played on commercial radio) was the influence of classical music and the blessed giants of early 20th century composition.
But the greatest titan of all was Dick Harris, who pounded on my piano at first hearing and shouted: “I’ll have that!” In so doing he played a great joke on the whole world and became a pop star overnight! This is after many had said it could not be done! That’ll teach ’em to trifle with a great man or woman from Limerick. Bless each and everyone of you, and all of us.
To hear Richard Harris sing MacArthur Park, see YouTube.