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Watch: A grand “MacArthur Park” with Jimmy Webb on Letterman

Peter Blackstock
pblackstock@statesman.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published July 22, 2014

David Letterman is hardly going gently into that good night; on the contrary, he seems driven to make the final year of his long-running CBS show something special. Monday night’s musical number was a case in point: More than two dozen musicians crowded around legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb and bandleader Paul Shaffer for a rendition of Webb’s epic “MacArthur Park” sung by longtime CBS Orchestra bassist and San Antonio native Will Lee, who climbed a model of the song’s infamous “cake in the rain” at the end of the number.

Webb, who plays a solo show at One World Theatre on Nov. 9, has brought the polarizing composition back to life in recent years, playing it last summer for the first time ever in MacArthur Park, a six-block plot with playgrounds and a pond on the edge of downtown Los Angeles. The song was first recorded in 1968 by actor Richard Harris; Waylon Jennings won a country Grammy with it the following year, and Donna Summer took it to #1 on the pop charts with her 1978 disco remake.

Its many detractors include humor columnist Dave Barry, who declared it the worst song ever recorded in “Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs.”