Some people’s GLEN CAMPBELL (born 1938) is the one who sang “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Mine is the one who sang anonymous lead on the Sagittarius single “My World Fell Down”; who made Gentle on My Mind, a flawless construction of rural humor and Orbisonian agony that is also a concept album on the theme of manhood; and who at his 1966–70 best was a vocalist of genius.
NEXT: One of the great modern recordings — of one of the least promising song concepts ever. (Although the schmaltzy strings seem like they were stuck in to make the recording more radio-friendly.)
It’s kind of the pop song equivalent of Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening;” Billy Joel called “Wichita Lineman” “a simple song about an ordinary man thinking extraordinary thoughts.”
The song’s composer Jimmy Webb:
“What I was really trying to say was, you can see someone working in construction or working in a field, a migrant worker or a truck driver, and you may think you know what’s going on inside him, but you don’t. You can’t assume that just because someone’s in a menial job that they don’t have dreams … or extraordinary concepts going around in their head, like ‘I need you more than want you; and I want you for all time.’ You can’t assume that a man isn’t a poet. And that’s really what the song is about.”
From the comments:
The lineman loves the girl with a wholehearted and gentlemanly love, but she has married someone else. The giant landscape he works in is outdone by the immense emptiness inside him. There is a cruel irony in his job being to keep everyone else connected when he himself is utterly cut off, isolated and alone in the world. You can sense the defeat in all this. A strong, honorable man doing his best to keep going when his life is basically gone. He is somewhere between a man and a ghost. Small wonder that people should see a tragic weirdness in the story.