Sunday, December 09, 2012
AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Richard Harris
In the 60s, Richard Harris was an actor who was compared frequently to Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole. Like his buddies, Harris couldn't really sing. But he tried anyway and MacArthur Park was a top five hit in 1968. It was very unusual. He was born Oct. 1, 1930 in Limerick, Ireland. After a promising rugby career was cut short by tuberculosis, Harris moved to London to study acting. He made his stage debut in 1956 and his film debut in 1958. But his big break came when he starred in the 1963 film This Sporting Life and was nominated for an Oscar. His other big role was as King Arthur in the 1967 film musical Camelot. Jimmy Webb was a successful songwriter with hits like Up, Up and Away for The Fifth Dimension and By The Time I Get To Phoenix for Glen Campbell. At the time, he was starting a new production company. Harris and Webb met at a party in Los Angeles and Harris told Webb he wanted to record. At first, Webb didn't take him seriously. But then Webb went to London and Harris chose MacArthur Park as his recording debut. This was a song that was rejected by many artists including The Association. The record was seven minutes long at a time when most hit records were less than three minutes. It also had an orchestral break in the middle. Many record companies turned it down until Lou Adler released it on Dunhill Records. The song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for the arrangement. The record was so melodramatic and the lyrics so obtuse that speculation was the song was about drugs. Webb says the song is about his breakup with Susan Ronstadt (Linda's cousin). He says they used to hang out at MacArthur Park. The song has been parodied many times, most notably by Dave Thomas at SCTV. And Donna Summer topped the charts with her 1978 disco version of MacArthur Park. Harris recorded two albums with Webb and you can get them on this Universal UK CD. Harris went back to acting. He was very busy in the 70s but health problems due to alcoholism forced him to cut back in the 80s. He returned in the 1990 film The Field and was rewarded with a Best Actor Oscar nomination. He also played Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films. His granddaughter told him if he didn't do the Harry Potter films she would never speak to him again. Richard Harris was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease Aug. 2002 and died Oct. 25, 2002 at age 72. Here's a video from a British TV show The 50 Best One Hit Wonders where MacArthur Park is discussed and clips are shown of Richard Harris performing the song.