LOS ANGELES – MARCH 25, 2020 – Glen Campbell’s recording of “Wichita Lineman,” with its yearning refrain of “I need you more than want you and I want you for all time,” has been inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, ensuring that, like the lonesome lover’s sentiment in the timeless song, it will live on until the end of time.
The honor was announced today by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden who inducted the recording along with two dozen others in the 2019 class of audio treasures worthy of preservation because of their cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the nation’s recorded sound heritage. Each year, the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress chooses recordings showcasing the range and diversity of American recorded sound heritage in order to increase preservation awareness. The diversity of nominations received highlights the richness of the nation’s audio legacy and underscores the importance of assuring the long-term preservation of that legacy for future generations.
“‘Wichita Lineman’ is the ultimate expression of the musical and spiritual bond between my husband Glen and his songwriting soulmate Jimmy Webb,” said Kim Campbell, Campbell’s widow. “Despite ‘Wichita Lineman’ being such an important song for Glen it was also one of his favorites and I know he’d be so thrilled and honored to have his original recording preserved in the Library of Congress.”
“I’m humbled and, at the same time for Glen, I am extremely proud,” said Jimmy Webb. “I wish there was some way I could reach him to say, ‘Glen, you know they’re doing this. They are putting our music in a mountain–it will be preserved for all time.”
Written by Jimmy Webb in 1968, “Wichita Lineman” was the title track of Campbell’s 12th album which was released by Capitol Records in November 1968 as the singer and musician was becoming a television star, film actor and crossover sensation. Following the unprecedented success Campbell experienced as a result of having a hit with Webb’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” which was released the year prior and garnered two GRAMMY Awards, Campbell asked the songwriter to write another geographical song as a follow up to “Phoenix.” For the song’s inspiration, Webb thought back to an indelible image he had etched in his memory that he once saw while driving through rural Oklahoma of a solitary lineman working on a telephone pole in an endless line of poles and the loneliness and longing that a man like that might feel. On deadline to deliver the song, Webb turned in a version that he felt was unfinished, warning producer and arranger Al De Lory that he needed to add a third verse. Unbeknownst to him, Campbell, who said he cried upon hearing it because he was homesick, recorded it immediately, adding a bass guitar interlude to complete the song. Webb initially assumed that Campbell didn’t like the song since he hadn’t received any feedback so was surprised to find out from Campbell when he ran into him several weeks later that he had recorded it.
With its instantly recognizable opening six-note bass intro that gives way to sweeping, orchestral strings, tremolo guitar and Campbell’s plaintive vocals, the wistful pop-country ballad “Wichita Lineman” didn’t sound like anything else of the day when released more than 50 years ago and still sounds singular today. Produced by Al De Lory and recorded with the legendary Los Angeles studios musicians The Wrecking Crew (Al Casey, James Burton, Carol Kaye, Don Bagley, Jim Gordon and Al De Lory), the multimillion-selling “Wichita Lineman” was a massive crossover hit for Campbell that went to No. 3 on the pop chart and topped the country and adult contemporary charts for weeks. The song earned several GRAMMY nominations including Record of the Year and Best Male Contemporary Pop Vocal Performance, was nominated for Single of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Award and stayed atop the country music charts for 20 weeks where it was the year’s top release in the genre. “Wichita Lineman” helped propel the album of the same name to multi-platinum status selling more than two million copies and becoming Campbell’s first #1 album where it stayed on the pop chart for five weeks.
“Wichita Lineman” has proven to be that rare song that transcends genres, eras and cultures. It has been recorded and covered live by hundreds of artists from across the globe including Guns N’ Roses, James Taylor, Johnny Cash, José Feliciano, Keith Urban, King Curtis, Kool & The Gang, The Meters, Ray Charles, R.E.M., Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, Smokey Robinson, Toby Keith, Tom Jones, Wayne Newton, and many others. After Campbell’s death, Webb sang the song with Little Big Town in a heartfelt tribute during the 51st Annual Country Music Association Awards.
To experience some of Campbell’s classic performances of the song as well as inspired versions by a host of the aforementioned musicians head over to YouTube for a curated playlist for a sampling of some of the best performances. Watch here: https://UMe.lnk.to/WichitaLinemanPR/YouTube
An enduring classic and one of Campbell’s signature songs, “Wichita Lineman” is widely considered one of the best songs ever written. In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked it at #195 of the “500 Greatest Songs Of All Time” and in 2014 they ranked it #16 of the “100 Greatest Country Songs Of All Time.” In 2000, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Listen to “Wichita Lineman” here: https://UMe.lnk.to/WichitaLinemanPR
This latest honor for the late country icon who died in 2017 following a courageous years-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease comes shortly after the February 2020 opening of The Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage at the corner of Broadway and 2nd Avenue in Nashville. The museum celebrates Glen Campbell’s incredible life and legacy through never-before-seen artifacts from his early years on the farm in Arkansas through his climb to super-stardom and features an exciting array of instruments, awards, stage outfits and keepsakes including intimate family photos. For more information about the museum, currently offering free shipping on all online merchandise orders, visit GlenCampbellMuseum.com