A Bit of a Classic: Donna Summer – MacArthur Park (1978)

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In A Bit of a Classic, A Bit of Pop Music takes you back in time to relive a pop release we definitely should not forget about. On the 24th of September it is exactly 40 years ago that Donna Summer graced us with the irresistible disco cover of ‘MacArthur Park’. Let’s go back to 1978!

Donna Summer was in the midst of the disco peak in her career when her producer and long time collaborator Giorgio Moroder asked her to record a cover version of ‘MacArthur Park’, a track written by Jimmy Webb and originally performed by Richard Harris. Moroder had been looking for a 60s track to give a disco makeover for a good while when he heard ‘MacArthur Park’ on the radio and decided it would be a perfect fit for Summer. Summer at that stage just had major success with singles like ‘Last Dance’ and ‘I Feel Love’.

‘MacArthur Park’ became one of the bigger hits in Donna Summer’s impressive career, hitting number 1 in the US and Canada and reaching top 10 in numerous other countries, outperforming the original in the charts. Summer recorded the song in a couple of different versions, the original being over 8 minutes long, but a more radiofriendly version about half the length made sure that the track became the hit it deserved to be.

Interestingly enough, ‘MacArthur Park’ although being a hit in different versions, has been heavily criticized too and more than once voted as one of the worst songs ever written. It is safe to say that the lyrics are to blame for that. Webb wrote the track about the end of his relationship, which flourished with the time he and his partner spent in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. He wrote about the scenes he saw in said park, including a cake in the rain which arguably received a bit too big of a role lyrically. Now in the end in Donna’s version, this is not a problem in the slightest, because you could have made her sing the telephone directory and it would still have sounded gorgeous. Moroder outdid himself here too with a vivacious instrumentation that takes the composition straight to disco heaven! The song had another peak in popularity when Donna Summer passed away in 2012, with Laidback Luke remixing the track for a tribute album.

Enjoy ‘MacArthur Park’ in this flawless live version!

And if you can’t get enough of Donna, there is an 18 minute long ‘MacArthur Park Suite’ available!

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