PERFORMING ARTS

Wichita Lineman: Searching in the Sun for the World’s Greatest Unfinished Song

Faber & Faber. Sept. 2019. 288p. bibliog. ISBN 9780571353408. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780571353422. MUSIC
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Jones (David Bowie: A Life) brings the requisite expertise and love of subject to this nostalgic rumination on the 1968 song “Wichita Lineman,” written by Jimmy Webb and recorded by singer Glen Campbell. The author details the original production, Campbell’s singing and guitar playing, and the tune’s subsequent resonance through the decades as an anthem of the American heartland’s blue-collar worker. In themed chapters, Jones addresses the social impact of music and a variety of tangential areas, such as what a lineman’s job actually entails. Of special interest are interviews with key players in the creation of the song including Webb and Campbell and behind-the-scenes glimpses into the tribulations of session musicians. However, readers who aren’t schooled in the wide range of British pop/rock bands since the 1960s might get lost in the weeds.
VERDICT This affectionate memorial to Campbell and rather hagiographic take on Webb’s talent might have worked better as a long article for Rolling Stone or The New Yorker, as it tends to repetitiveness and often veers into self-serving territory. Sadly, the whole does not equal the sum of its (many excellent) parts.

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