Jimmy Webb is a genius song writer, there is no doubt about it. And get Glenn Campbell to sing those songs and you have pure gold. I have been a long time fan of Campbell, and Wichita Lineman is one of those perfect songs.
The theme and lyrics describe a lonely telephone line man, up a pole on the line, possibly talking to a love or about an ex-love, and his longing for them out in the lonely country.
Whilst the specifics of the telephone line man may escape most, the feeling and emotion of the song everyone gets, it is timeless.
The melancholy of the lyrics and orchestration kill me, every...single...time...
I think I could listen to this song forever.
You mention Wichita Lineman to any music lover and the response will almost always be the same, a knowing nod, an ahh, and a wistful look, every song writer and poet wishes they wrote it.
“I need you more than want you and I want you for all time” is one of the most perfect lyrics ever written.
The strings and orchestration add extra depth to what is essentially a country song. Campbell has never sounded better, his translation of those lyrics is spot on. His voice is pure and clean, and the clarity of his sound singing those stunning lyrics against backdrop of the orchestration, it is pure perfection.
The song soars on the back of those strings, and pulls back on the stronger lyrics, building slowly for the guitar solo in the middle. Very simply executed, as the good songs often are.
REM have always done a lovely version of it (and Galveston) and when searching for that to add I found this gorgeous version with Michael Stipe singing with Patti Smith’s band, it’s not his best version, but worth it to see his interaction with Patti and the deep love they have always had. Totally melted my heart.