Songwriter Jimmy Webb was driving through rural Oklahoma when he noticed a lone telephone lineman atop a pole. He said it was “the picture of loneliness.” When he watched the man put the phone to his ear, he imagined what the lineman was saying into the receiver and wrote the song Wichita Lineman. Glen Campbell sang the song and it topped the U.S. album chart in 1968. (Campbell had been Webb’s idol since he was 14, when the first record he bought was Campbell’s “Turn Around, Look at Me.”) Rolling Stone called Wichita Lineman “the first existential country song.” Campbell told a Dallas Observer reporter that Webb wrote it about his first love affair with a woman who married someone else. The song struck a chord with a diverse list of artists who have performed it – from Frank Sinatra and James Taylor to REM and The Stone Temple Pilots.
Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” (first made famous by Mr. Campbell) was the third most-performed song in the 50 years between 1940-1990 . It was inspired by Webb’s breakup from Susan Ronstadt, a cousin of Linda. He claims they remained friends even after her marriage to another man. Sinatra called it “the greatest torch song ever written.” And Francis Albert knew from torch.