After being part of the Saturday Night Live house band from 1975-1980, actor and musician Paul Shaffer’s latest endeavor (since 1982!) is as the musical director and orchestra leader of The Late Show with David Letterman. His success did not stop there though: as both of his solo albums (1993’s The World’s Most Dangerous Party & 1989’s Coast To Coast) were GRAMMY-nominated.
Tonight (July 21) is a big night for Paul as well as The Late Show with David Letterman. Paul has labeled tonight’s show as “MacArthur Park Night” as the show takes on a performance of the hit, albeit loooooooong song. The performance will be a complete six-minute version of the song with Jimmy Webb on harpsichord and the 23-piece CBS Orchestra tonight.
“My friend David Letterman, whom you may have heard announced that he was retiring in about a year, is just taking advantage of this last year to do quirky things that he always wanted to see on the show and he mentioned ”MacArthur Park’ can we do something with that?’ From there it just sort of mushroomed,” Paul said.
Due to the length of the song (it’s about seven minutes long), David and Paul decided it would be best to perform the song during the show rather than during commercial.
“We learned it as just one of our regular repertoire songs and thought that we would play it during a commercial,” Paul said. “I mentioned this to David and he said ‘well let’s do it as a number on the show’ and I don’t know, I guess we got carried away! We’ve got about 22 extra musicians coming today.”
Joining Paul Shaffer and the rest of the musicians partaking in the “MacArthur Park” performance is the composer of the song, the one and only Jimmy Webb. Jimmy Webb, as you’ll recall, also composed the song “The Worst That Could Happen” made famous by Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge (Scott Shannon is looking forward to a week full of performances of that song too, although it probably won’t happen!).
“We have the great Jimmy Webb, the composer of the tune, playing with us today, so he is going to make sure that we are letter perfect. He is just the greatest guy and wrote so many great hits and really had a lot to do with changing music,” Paul said.
“As I analyze the harmonies and the chords I see, wow, a lot of this was a precursor to Philly soul and the sophisticated arrangements of Thom Bell with the stylistics of the supersonic Delfonics… Jimmy Webb broke a lot of ground with this thing.”
Watch Jimmy Webb’s version of “MacArthur Park” below:
Be sure to tune in to The Late Show with David Letterman tonight to catch the exclusive performance of “MacArthur Park.” Paul hinted that the performance will be towards the end of the show.
–Leah Cunningham & Joe Cingrana/WCBS-FM
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