Jimmy Webb Denied Grammy Nominations For Kanye Hit

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Jimmy Webb (photo by Sasa Tkalcan, used with permission)

One of the truly great songwriters, Jimmy Webb, has taken to his Facebook page to bring attention to a Recording Academy (NARAS) snub that denies him Grammy nominations–and potential awards–for a Kanye West song, “Famous,” which has been nominated for Grammys for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Performance. Webb’s complaint? “More than 35% of ‘Famous’ is rooted in my song ‘Do What You Gotta Do.'”

Webb has written dozens of well known songs that have been huge hits for Glen Campbell (“Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”), Richard Harris and Donna Summer (“MacArthur Park”) the Brooklyn Bridge (“The Worst That Could Happen”), the 5th Dimension (“Up, Up and Away”), and many more. He has earned three Grammy Awards including one for Song of the Year for “Up, Up and Away.”

In a January 22 post, Webb writes: “More than 35% of ‘Famous’ is rooted in my song ‘Do What You Gotta Do.’ There are twelve writers on ‘Famous’ nominated to win Grammys, each responsible for about 5% of the song. And I, Jimmy Webb, AM NOT a nominated songwriter for ‘Famous.'” Webb’s song had previously been recorded by artists such as Linda RonstadtJohnny Rivers and Nina Simone.

Songwriter credits for “Famous” via Wikipedia

Seventeen writers are credited on “Famous,” yet only 12 have been nominated.

Webb continues: “So why am I being denied a nomination? Grammys ‘do not credit writers of sampled material or interpolated material in any of our song categories’. This is not a mere sample and it is more than ‘interpolated material’: ‘Do What You Gotta Do,’ with a new recording of Rihanna singing, is the first thing the listener hears, and what draws them in on West’s ‘Famous’ – it is the face of the song. The use of my chords and melody throughout becomes the backbone. And there it rests on the great Nina Simone singing ‘Do What You Gotta Do’ at the end. ‘Do What You Gotta Do is what the listener is left with, it is the foundation of ‘Famous.’ ‘Famous’ doesn’t stand without ‘Do What You Gotta Do.'”

Listen to Simone’s 1968 version…

Webb notes that if the song wins, the Academy “has graciously offered me a certificate,” adding “I will contest this ill-conceived rule for all songwriters.”

Kanye’s “Famous” with the Rhianna vocals that Webb references…

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In a January 27 post, Webb adds: “NARAS’ reply is that I can submit a proposal to change the rule but to keep in mind that others have tried before unsuccessfully. We are now waiting for an official reply from Kanye’s office to see if they will support this proposal.”

Fellow artists weighed in, including Stephen Bishop: “I have a situation that’s similar only I’m not up for an award. Beyonce sampled my song ‘On and On’ and used it all the way through a song she recorded for her Platinum Beyonce album…a song called ‘Ring Off’.

“This isn’t some flunky Songwriter…this is Jimmy Webb. He is a songwriting Icon. One of America’s great songwriters [is] not getting credit for his song and he is entitled to recognition by the Recording Academy. They have to change the rule.”

Best Classic Bands spoke with Webb last year. In Part 1 of our interview, he talks about “MacArthur Park” and Glen Campbell. Part 2 covers many of his other hits (and misses).

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards will be held on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles.

Webb has a memoir coming April 18 from St. Martin’s Press called The Cake and the Rain. Pre-order is available here.

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Best Classic Bands Staff

10 Comments so far

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  1. dabraat
    #1 dabraat 1 February, 2017, 16:37

    This is total and extreme nonsense. The first vocals you here are of Rihana singing these lyrics for the first time. Not a sample, this is a brand new recording of an old song, with other garbage strewn (my opinion) around it to make it a ‘rap’. But Jimmy is the main “song” writer on this recording for all the breaks, beginning, middle, and end. Jimmy has every right to fight for his own work and I hope Kanye supports him. BTW, the version of this song I remember best was done by the Four Tops.

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  2. Congressive
    #2 Congressive 1 February, 2017, 19:32

    What the hell? Cirque du Soleil did this with Dewey Bunnell on Michael Jackson’s “Place Without No Name” where they credited two others for songwriting but not Dewey Bunnell, even though the video begins with the original recording of Horse With No Name, and Michael does the exact same chorus as the out for the video.

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  3. Ludo Vica
    #3 Ludo Vica 2 February, 2017, 08:35

    absolutely appalling. What a way to treat one of our greatest songwriters. All samples excerpts and re-recordings need to be credited and paid as a percentage of the run time of the piece. AND get the recognition they deserve

    Reply this comment
  4. Doak
    #4 Doak 2 February, 2017, 12:28

    GIVE JIMMY THE AWARD and why and how does it take 17 people to co-write a song?? How many people did they rip off in the song? Did they apply for the license to sample the song or do it hoping they would not get caught?

    Reply this comment
  5. dc
    #5 dc 2 February, 2017, 12:29

    Ludicrous and appalling!!!!

    Reply this comment
    #6 MARTY {WAYY} GREEN 4 February, 2017, 14:28

    Why isn’t Neil Sedaka in the
    ROCK N ROLL Hall of Fame
    He sold million of records

    Marty Green {73}
    Former DJ

    Reply this comment
  7. I have the hots for Britt Ekland
    #7 I have the hots for Britt Ekland 6 February, 2017, 02:52

    I only learned of Jimmy Webb from “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Jurassic Park” (a description of the movie, sung to the tune of Webb’s “MacArthur Park”).

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  8. Arnold
    #8 Arnold 6 February, 2017, 16:43

    As an arranger, composer, producer, MD from New Zealand who is a long-time admirer of Webb’s work I believe Kanye’s track is more about Webb’s composition than his own “Famous”, which IMHO doesn’t match up to Webb’s creative talent.

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