All I could say was “wow” after hearing Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra perform McArthur Park last night on The Late Show with David Letterman.
I remember the song from my youth—the one with the famous line about the cake left out in the rain. I always thought it was nice, but had no burning desire to hear it again. But then I was watching Letterman last night and he was talking about driving around with his son, listening to various versions of this classic 1968 tune, written by Jimmy Webb and first performed by Richard Harris. Dave said that the satellite radio played the song so many times, his son finally shouted, “No more cake!!!”
After that, Dave decided to ask Shaffer if he could do the song on the show. Rather than perform it during the commercial, they decided to play it as part of the featured lineup. I knew it was a long song, it was getting late and I was tired, but I thought I’d give it a chance and listen for a minute or so and go to bed. Plus, they said Jimmy Webb was going to perform with them, so I thought I’d stay up just to catch a glimpse of him since he was such a great songwriter.
Well almost six minutes later I was wide awake and still in awe. The performance was superb! Will Lee—one of the original Late Night band members—did a magnificent vocal, reaching notes, as Shaffer said, that “only dogs could hear.” Shaffer’s direction was great, there were over 20 extra musicians, and the green-icing cake at the end was a nice touch.
If you didn’t see it, you missed a great show! But never fear, here is a link to the YouTube video.
And here is a sample of some of the many comments on the video:
Connie Colvin: This was so great, just incredible, Will Lee was great, brought a tear to my eyes, truly amazing!!!!
JesusSavesAtCitibank: Just, WOW!!!
Cruciefiction: One of the more outstanding performances in David Letterman show history!
Brett Dillingham: Agreed. This was just fabulous, esp. since it included Jimmy Webb.
Burnabybrent: Originally written and sung by Jimmy Webb, but a hit by Richard Harris! You can see Webb's version on youtube as well.
JazzzDrummer: Wow! Just got done watching this on Letterman. How super to have the big talent of Jimmy Webb there.Great performance from all those musicians.
PatchmanMusic: Astounding performance by all! I've been watching Letterman for decades and this was the best musical segment I've ever seen on the show. Such a pleasure to see maestro Webb on the keys! He's the Beethoven of our times. Big thanks to Dave and CBS for putting this on! More! More!!
Julie P.: Just started to fall asleep but THIS woke me up!! Beautiful composition by Webb. Outstanding performance by CBS orchestra!
Saltygal: That was fabulous! That song was one of a kind when it came out and remains in a class of its own to this day . So glad to be able to hear this performance and be able to come back to it again and again.
Natt Witham: This is simply fantastic! A beautiful rich full blown version of this landmark song with the man himself Jim Webb there to bring the magic of the song RIGHT BACK to us from that amazing controversial "45" we had as teenagers! THANKYOU SO Jimmy, Paul, and Will for a perfectly inspiring climax to my 60th birthday!!!!!! I will never forget it!!
James Taratunio: I am a semi-professional Tenor (not my profession, unfortunately), classically trained. This is one of my favorite songs of all time. I performed it in college with an orchestra in 1973 and have always enjoyed the Richard Harris original version. Though Donna Summer's version was enjoyable, it wasn't my favorite. I'm a purist, that way. I saw this performance last evening, ala the original arrangement, slightly abridged. I was overcome with emotion at the purity of the performance. The orchestral arrangement was obviously the original by Jim Webb, the direction by Paul was super and the vocals by Will Lee were spot on. I do not give accolades easily, but I am giving sincerest compliments to Will Lee, Paul Shaffer and Jim Webb for an excellent performance of that most difficult and beautiful masterpiece of Jim Webb...Richard would have been proud. I was.