Dedication: To Scottage--Now I can't get this damn song out of my head! So if I have to suffer, the rest of you might as well suffer as well. Here are some facts and the story behind the Richard Harris (Professor Dumbledore) and Donna Summer versions of "MacArthur Park".
"MacArthur Park" is an epic song, written by Jimmy Webb and first performed by Richard Harris in 1968. Harris' seminal recording topped the music charts in Europe, while peaking at number two on the U.S. charts.
It was an unusual single, running for more than seven minutes, with a long, climactic orchestral break. The lyrics were more symbolic and sentimental than descriptive (featuring the notable line, "Someone left the cake out in the rain"), and were apparently about a lost love and a rendezvous in the park. It has been covered more than fifty times, including versions by Waylon Jennings, Glen Campbell, Maynard Ferguson, Liza Minnelli, and most notably, by Donna Summer in a 1978 disco version that topped the U.S. charts, and ran to six minutes and forty seconds in its full-length version, and seventeen minutes, forty seconds as part of a medley released by Summer.
The sentimentality of the song made it an easy target for parody. "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a version of the song for his album Alapalooza with new lyrics recapping the plot of the movie Jurassic Park. The comedy series Second City Television aired a sketch with an actor playing Richard Harris singing "MacArthur Park" and waiting in agony during the orchestral break to finish the song while the show moved on to other skits. In an episode of The Simpsons, "Lisa the Beauty Queen", a contestant related to Apu announces that she is going to sing the song in its entirety, while playing the tabla, and the audience laughs at her. Also, in a Seinfeld episode, the song is alluded to when George Costanza recalls a scene from his childhood in which he was singing the song. In another episode (The Statue episode #11) George tries to acquire a statue that could replace one George's parents had years ago, but he broke while singing MacArthur Park. The song is also briefly featured, albeit in a Muzak version, in the 1982 film Airplane II: The Sequel, blaring loudly from an airport elevator. A poll by American columnist Dave Barry selected "MacArthur Park" as the worst song ever recorded. The song is also featured in the Movie "Vertical Limit" (2000) directed by Martin Campbell: A climber (Stuart Wilson) sings this song before he falls off the mountain.
MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Despite the rather poetic homage paid to it, the real MacArthur Park became known for being a violent place after 1985 when drug deals, shoot-outs and occasional drownings became somewhat common there. Before the decline of the neighborhood, the park featured the traditional paddle-boats and a large fountain in the center of the lake; since the park was a popular middle-class destination for over fifty years, it is likely it can be reclaimed in the future.
technorati tags: Richard Harris, Donna Summer, Dumbledore, Harry Potter, MacArthur Park, Los Angeles