The featured photo is of a cake I baked in 1993 for my boss at the time. I was the cook at a Presbyterian church camp and there was a nasty stomach bug that came through and made a lot of us sick, including the camp director, whose birthday it happened to be. I decided to bake the cake in honor of the virus– it says “Hurling into #33”. And yes, it was a huge hit! Presbyterians, mostly being very Scottish in origin, usually do not lack an appreciation for ribald humor.
For some reason, this morning I found myself singing “MacArthur Park”, a song that was written by the great songwriter Jimmy Webb. I am most familiar with Donna Summer’s version of that song, since I was a youngster when it was popular. But, in the course of reading up on “MacArthur Park”, I learned that it was actually written in the late 1960s and has been covered by a lot of different artists… including Waylon Jennings, of all people!
I am a big fan of Jimmy Webb’s music. He’s written some really beautiful songs. I didn’t know anything about his personal life before this morning, when I read about his first wife, Patsy Sullivan, whom he met when she was twelve and he was 22 years old. They appeared together on a cover of ‘Teen magazine. The next year, they started a relationship and married in 1974, when their son, Christaan, was 17 months old. Patsy was just 16 years old when she had him. She had five more children with Webb before they split in 1996. When he published his memoir in 2017, he left Patsy out of it and reportedly didn’t mention their son, Christaan. I’m not sure why he did that, since it’s not like it wasn’t known that they were married and had children. Anyway, Webb is remarried as of 2004, having wed his wife, Laura Savini.
Sometimes I think it’s better not to know too much about the people you admire. I’m not sure I approve of Webb’s relationship with the very young Patsy in the 1970s… but I guess it was considered a different time. Webb was also using a lot of substances– drugs and alcohol– and has since given them up. I still think it’s shitty that he’s denied his first marriage in his memoir. Seems pretty fucked up to me.
I have funny memories of “MacArthur Park.” Although I had heard it many times when I was growing up, I never paid much attention to the lyrics. It wasn’t until I went to college that I heard the line about the cake in the rain. My old friend– brother from another mother, Chris Jones– was going around singing it badly. “Someone left my CAKE out in the RAIN…” Chris can’t sing under the best of circumstances, but he’s also a natural comedian, so his version of that song was hilarious. I remember saying to him, though… “are you sure those are the right words?” Or maybe I just thought he’d made them up, as we were both likely to do in those days (and in my case, today).
Chris assured me that the song, as ridiculous as it was, was actually written with those lyrics.
Today, I read that the lyrics by Jimmy Webb were based on actual things that he saw as he and his friend/girlfriend were breaking up in view of MacArthur Park in California. Someone actually HAD left a cake out in the rain. The mind boggles at the backstory potential. What happened? Was someone’s birthday party rained out? Did a romantic date go badly? Did some people run off and leave the cake because they’d rather stay dry than save their sweet treat? Who knows… but what a weird visual. I guess the truth really is stranger than fiction.
I still like Jimmy Webb’s music and respect his immense talents. I suspect he didn’t want to address his first wife’s age because he’s a “different person” now. Actually, I’d say that if you aren’t willing to own up to the past, maybe you haven’t changed that much, after all… I’m sure his life story is still interesting, even though he omitted a big, major chunk of it from his memoir. I haven’t read the book, but I can see from Amazon reviews that a lot of people didn’t think it was very good. They claim he name drops a lot and is apparently a “moral midget” who has affairs with married women. I dunno… Maybe I’ll read it so I can decide what I think of it. If I do read it, it won’t be for awhile. I have a bunch of books to read right now and only so many conscious hours.
And there are many, many other versions of this song, as well as other songs Jimmy wrote that are fantastic. I’ll just try to focus on those.