‘Wichita Lineman’ Book Coming From Author Dylan Jones

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Jimmy Webb’s composition, “Wichita Lineman,” described in press notes for an upcoming book, The Wichita Lineman: Searching in the Sun For the World’s Greatest Unfinished Song, “is the first philosophical country song: a heartbreaking torch ballad still celebrated for its mercurial songwriting genius 50 years later.”

Webb‘s song was first recorded in 1968 by Glen Campbell and is perhaps the song most closely associated with the singer’s remarkable career. It is also the tune that remains the standout among all of the classics from the long and successful collaboration of the composer and musician.

In the book, coming later this summer from Faber & Faber, author Dylan Jones, “mixing close-listening, interviews and travelog, explores the legacy of a record that has entertained, perplexed and haunted millions for over half a century.”

Campbell recording the song with the legendary group of Los Angeles studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew, of which he was perhaps its most famous alumnus. From the publisher’s announcement: “Something about the song’s enigmatic mood seemed to capture the tensions of America at a moment of unprecedented crisis. Fusing a dribble of bass, searing strings, tremolo guitar and Campbell’s plaintive vocals, Webb’s paean to the American West describes a telephone lineman’s longing for an absent lover who he hears ‘singing in the wire’ – and like all good love songs, it’s an SOS from the heart.”

Webb has said that the first single he ever bought was Campbell’s 1961 single “Turn Around, Look At Me,” which was a modest hit. Six years later, the collaboration took hold with “By The Time I Get To Phoenix.” Though the song peaked at only #26 on the pop chart, it reached #2 on country radio. One year later, the collaboration reached its apex with “Wichita Lineman,” which became the singer’s second of five career #1 country hits and a #3 pop smash.

Webb penned dozens of other hits including “Mac Arthur Park” (a hit for Richard Harris and Donna Summer), “Up, Up and Away” by the Fifth Dimension, and the Brooklyn Bridge’s “Worst That Could Happen.” He has recorded his own albums and won every conceivable award a songwriter can win.

Related: We spoke with Webb about “Wichita Lineman” and many of his other hits

More from the book announcement: “What is it about this song that continues to fascinate and seduce listeners, and how did the parallel stories of Campbell and Webb unfold in the decades following the song’s success? Part biography, part work of musicological archaeology, The Wichita Lineman opens a window onto America in the late twentieth century through the prism of a song that has been covered by myriad artists in the intervening decades.

The Wichita Lineman: Searching in the Sun For the World’s Greatest Unfinished Song arrives August 1 in the U.K. and September 3 in the U.S.

Jones is the author of the best-selling books, David Bowie: A Life and Jim Morrison: Dark Star. In 2013, he was awarded an OBE for services to publishing. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of British GQ.

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  1. Rob
    #1 Rob 8 July, 2019, 20:44

    My father worked for Michigan Bell Telephone. When he first started with the company, he worked construction and as a lineman. The song was one of his all time favorites

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