In September 1978, American singer Donna Summer released a multi-million selling vinyl single disco version of “MacArthur Park“: number one on the American pop music sales charts for three weeks, the track earned Summer her first nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Summer was also nominated for Favorite Pop/Rock Female at the American Music Awards where her album Live and More took the award for Favorite Disco Album.
Producer Giorgio Moroder would recall that he and his collaborator Pete Bellotte had been interested in the concept of either remixing a track – as yet undecided on – which had been a hit in the 1960s or else remaking a 1960s hit as a dance track: Moroder – “I remember that I was driving in… on the Hollywood Freeway, and I heard the original song [i.e. “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris] on the radio. I thought: ‘That’s it – that’s the song we’ve been looking for almost a year.'” Moroder asked Neil Bogart, president of Casablanca Records, to provide him with a copy of the Richard Harris version of “MacArthur Park” to serve as basis for Moroder’s envisioned discofied reinvention: Bogart obliged with an 8-track tape containing Harris’ version, which Moroder had to specially buy an 8-track player to hear.
Moroder readily identified “MacArthur Park” as (quote) “a great song for Donna – with all those high notes, it was perfect [for her]…First, I [located] a key that she could sing really high, but still with a big voice – that took an hour or two. I played a little piano and she sang it with my accompaniment. We found a key and we had Greg Mathieson do the arrangement – and then I did something very special” – that “something very special” being Moroder’s recording of his own voice to form a choir heard behind Summer on the song’s chorus: “I recorded about 20 seconds of all the notes, which I was able to sing on a 24-track. I made a loop of those notes, and put that loop in the [Solid State Logic] desk. I could form eight chords by having C-E-G right on the group. I played the chords by moving the track according to the chord that I needed.” Of basing a discofied arrangement on the template for Webb’s arrangement on the Harris version Moroder would recall: “To be honest, it was a very difficult song to [arrange], especially the brass, but we had the best musicians in town.”
Summer’s recording of “MacArthur Park”, included as part of the “MacArthur Park Suite” on her double album Live and More, was eight minutes and forty seconds long. The shorter seven-inch vinyl single version – which omits the song’s balladic second movement – afforded Summer her first #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, also becoming the last of seven hit versions of compositions by Jimmy Webb to reach the Top Ten on the Hot 100, with “MacArthur Park” by Donna Summer being the only recording of a Webb composition to top the Hot 100.
The nearly 18-minute musical medley “MacArthur Park Suite” incorporated the original songs “One of a Kind” and “Heaven Knows”, the latter being issued as the second single off Live and More. This medley was also sold as a 12-inch (30 cm) vinyl recording, and it stayed at number one on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart for five weeks in 1978.
|Guitar (Solo)||Jay Graydon|
|Background Vocals||Chris Bennett|
|Background Vocals||Donna Fein|
|Background Vocals||Carolyn Dennis|