Monday, January 13, 2020

Article: The Number Ones: Donna Summer’s “MacArthur Park”

I love that Stereogum just highlighted Donna Summer’s MacArthur Park as part of its series The Number Ones!  I can’t quite remember how I first discovered this song, but it’s been one of my favorite disco / Donna Summer tracks.  The original article only embedded the edited version that is under 4 minutes - but I’m including the nearly 18 minute version here, which I prefer.  It’s this version that has established itself as our official camp tear-down song, with the goal of the strike to be completed before the end of the song.  It’s good to have goals.


"‘MacArthur Park,’ in its original Richard Harris form, peaked at #2. (It’s a 6.) It didn’t fade away after that, either. It stuck around. Waylon Jennings won a Grammy for a 1969 country version of the song. The Four Tops turned it into orchestral soul in 1971. Andy Williams cut a sleepy easy-listening version in 1972. In his 1975 audition for the original Saturday Night Live cast, Andy Kaufman gave a straight-faced spoken-word recitation of the ‘MacArthur Park’ lyrics. Someone, somewhere, was going to turn ‘MacArthur Park’ into a disco song. It was inevitable. We’re lucky we got the Donna Summer version."


"As with the Richard Harris original, Summer recorded ‘MacArthur Park’ with the best LA studio musicians that her producers could round up. Moroder found other ways to put his literal voice into ‘MacArthur Park.’ On the chorus, the backing vocals are Moroder himself, multi-tracked into a chorus. It’s a trick that other producers would use many, many times in the decades ahead, but nobody else was doing stuff like that then. In the four-minute single edit of the song that Moroder put together, we get a swirling, histrionic, string-dominated intro that recalls the original. But then, one minute in, the beat drops, and ‘MacArthur Park turns into a gloriously hard-thumping disco jam. Summer lets out a quick whoop, but she keeps her composure, and she works overtime to keep the song’s strange emotional resonance alive."

(Via The Number Ones: Donna Summer’s “MacArthur Park” - Stereogum.)

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