b. Richard St. John Harris, 1 October 1930, Limerick, Eire, d. 25 October 2002, London, England. Although better-known as an actor, Harris nonetheless drew praise for his starring role as King Arthur in the film musical Camelot in 1967. The following year he began a recording career upon meeting US songwriter Jimmy Webb, the first fruit of which was ‘MacArthur Park’. This lengthy, melodramatic composition reached the US and UK Top 5 with sales in excess of one million and drew its appeal from a contrast between the singer’s cracked vocal and a sweeping, sumptuous backing. Webb’s florid wordplay, meanwhile, attracted praise and derision in equal measure. The Harris/Webb partnership was maintained on A Tramp Shining, and The Yard Went On Forever, but subsequent singles, including the haunting ‘Didn’t We’, failed to match the success of the first release. The singer scored a US Top 50 entry with ‘My Boy’ in 1970, and appeared in the stage production of Tommy. After his brief brush with pop fame, Harris concentrated solely on thespian pursuits although he continued to play the role of King Arthur in stage productions of Camelot. He made a shrewd investment by buying the rights to the musical, a transaction which made the actor a multi-millionaire. A reformed alcoholic and brilliant raconteur, Harris suffered from Hodgkin’s disease in later years and died in October 2002, shortly after completing work on Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets.
From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.