by Robert Fiebach
I was at home at our house at the shore going through some accumulated mail – most of which appeared to be junk mail – when a brochure from the Jewish Community Center of Margate caught my eye. The JCC was advertising a concert and it advertised that singer songwriter Jimmy Webb would be there in a few weeks.
Why would a famous singer songwriter such as Jimmy Webb – who had written hits such as “Up, Up and Away”, a trilogy for Glenn Campbell, “Wichita Lineman”, “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Galveston” – be coming to Margate, New Jersey?
I read the brochure again to be sure I was not making a mistake. Sure enough, this famous writer of such additional songs as “MacArthur Park”, “Moon Over New York City” and the Frank Sinatra song that is now part of the American songbook “Didn’t We Almost Make It” was actually appearing in Margate. Betsy and I decided there had to be a story here so we ordered tickets to attend the concert.
During the concert, as he sang and played on piano his music, Jimmy Webb wove in stories about his life. He had had the financial success that we envision for a songwriter of this stature. He talked about his former beautiful Hollywood home with a pool and just about everything that one would want, his adventures with drinking buddy, actor Richard Harris. He told how he was befriended by Frank Sinatra, welcomed into his home and given two front row tickets by the Chairman of the Board to a concert where Sinatra sang Webb’s music and introduced him to the crowd.
But he also told us how he had lost everything. His wife divorced him. He finally confronted his alcoholism on a holiday weekend when he passed up Thanksgiving dinner with his family and woke up the next day in his chair with an empty bottle of bourbon next to him. That was his bottom.
Webb also shared how he was putting his life together again. Modest concert stops were intended to put some money in his pocket and give him a chance to sell some records. We learned from a New York Times review of his newest album that such luminaries as Billy Joel, Glenn Campbell, Willy Nelson and Linda Ronstadt had contributed their talent by singing duets of Webb’s music with him on the album. They supported their old friend, Jimmy Webb, by donating their services so that all of the proceeds of this record could go to Mr. Webb.
Mr. Webb recounted how he had remarried and was now in a happy relationship. He had been sober for five years at the time and was continuing to rebuild his life.
This past summer Mr. Webb made another concert tour – this time in slightly more pricey venues than the Margate JCC. In fact, the man who wrote MacArthur Park performed it in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park.
People in recovery come in all sizes and shapes, from all religious backgrounds and all occupations. You do not have to be a rock star to fall under the influence of alcohol or drugs but you must have a strong resolve to overcome it. Jimmy Webb in recovery is no different from the kid next door in recovery. As the saying goes, each takes it “one day at a time.”
The Caring Community of Rodeph Shalom wants to be there for the support of any of our members or loved ones of any of our members who are in need of support as they recover from substance use disorders. It is appropriate that this year September is both the month that we recognize as National Recovery Month and also the month in which Yom Kippur falls. As the liturgy teaches us, on Yom Kippur God forgives sins against God but only people can forgive the sins against people. That is a strong tenet of the twelve step program of recovery which includes as a step the need for the alcoholic or addict in recovery to make amends with the people they have harmed as a result of their disease.
If RS can in any way help you or your loved ones in recovery, please contact Rabbi Jill Maderer (firstname.lastname@example.org)