IS it possible for a musician to emerge unscathed from the kind of early success enjoyed by the singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb? In the late 1960s, when he was barely 21, Mr. Webb was showered with Grammys for writing the Glen Campbell hits “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston” and the Fifth Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away.” Then there was “MacArthur Park,” the grandiose quasi-symphonic “cake out in the rain” popularized by the Irish actor Richard Harris and in 1978 remade into a disco fantasia by Donna Summer.

These songs established Mr. Webb — the son of a strict Baptist minister from Elk City, Okla., who moved his family to Southern California in the mid-’60s — as a pop music wunderkind with a Midas touch. But because his intensely romantic ballads straddled two worlds — traditional pop and country-flavored Southern California rock — Mr. Webb found himself on the far side of a generation gap. At the same time, he admits sheepishly today, he avidly subscribed to his generation’s slogan of not trusting anyone over 30.

To his profound frustration, audiences over 30 didn’t buy him as a singer-songwriter when he began releasing albums in the early ’70s. Not that that kept him from the customary excesses of the time.

“I lost it pretty badly,” he said of those days, “but unlike some others, I never wanted to die — not really.”

Sitting in his publicist’s Lower Manhattan office on a steamy afternoon recently, Mr. Webb, tall and rangy, now 63, still has a wild man’s gleam in his eye. He is a marvelous storyteller with the expansive style of a rural yarn spinner, who becomes more excited the more wound up he becomes. If he is an endless storehouse of real-life rock ’n’ roll adventure stories, set mostly in Hollywood and London in the late ’60s and ’70s, part of him is still a wide-eyed Oklahoma country boy agog with wonder at the goings-on in the big city.

This country youth is the focus of his new album, “Just Across the River” (E1 Records), a sturdy collection of his songs, some famous, some not, recorded with a dozen of Nashville’s top musicians and sung by Mr. Webb with guest harmony vocalists like Billy Joel (“Wichita Lineman”), Linda Ronstadt (“All I Know”), Jackson Browne (“P. F. Sloan”), Willie Nelson (“If You See Me Getting Smaller”), Vince Gill (“Oklahoma Nights”) and Michael McDonald (“Where Words End”) .

The album, whose basic tracks were recorded in just two days, is Mr. Webb’s first American release since his 1996 album “Ten Easy Pieces,” which featured some of the same songs done with spare voice and piano arrangements. Both records were produced by Fred Mollin, who first worked with Mr. Webb on his 1982 album “Angel Heart.”

“Jimmy’s background is 100 percent Americana and rooted in gospel and country,” Mr. Mollin said the other day. “As a boy he played piano in church and listened to his father’s Ernest Tubb records. I wanted him to go back to his Oklahoma childhood of barn dances and sneaking off to hear rock ’n’ roll.”

The original concept of the record was to have only two or three guest vocalists, Mr. Mollin explained. But once word of the project began to spread, singers were clamoring to participate, and it became an all-star project. Ms. Ronstadt came out of semi-retirement to record the harmony vocal on “All I Know,” a ballad that was originally a hit for Art Garfunkel.

An ardent Webb champion who recorded several of his songs on her blockbuster album “Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind,” Ms. Ronstadt, reached by telephone in her home in Tucson, commented, “From a singer’s point of view, Jimmy is the only songwriter in my experience whose level of craftsmanship is comparable to that earlier era of Rodgers and Hart and Gershwin.” She went on to compare the colors of his harmonies to Debussy and cited the tension between his disciplined craftsmanship and his songs’ “over-the-top” emotionality as one of his most compelling qualities.

Today Mr. Webb has the aura of a pop-country patriarch who is keenly aware of having outlived a number of his rock ’n’ roll contemporaries, including two Beatles. He has five sons and a daughter, age 19 to 35, by his first wife. Recently remarried, he lives in Oyster Bay, N.Y. He is also vice-chairman of Ascap, the organization that protects musicians’ copyrights.

At an age when other singers are losing their voices, Mr. Webb finds his mercurial, unguarded singing, which he used to consider a liability, attaining the gritty authority of a softhearted country outlaw’s. And in song after song he vocally holds his own with his guests. Unlike many of his peers whose songwriting talents are in decline, Mr. Webb is still at the top of his game. Singers like Rosemary Clooney (who died in 2002) and Michael Feinstein have turned his ballad “Time Flies,” written for a musical version of Ray Bradbury’s book “Dandelion Wine,” into a nightclub standard. And Judy Collins has included his sweeping biographical song, “Paul Gauguin in the South Seas,” on her new album, “Paradise” (Wildflower).

Mr. Webb ascribes his late-blooming vocal confidence and continuing creativity to his sobriety and his overcoming of a lifelong fear of singing in public.

“It will be nine years this Thanksgiving since I’ve been sober,” he said, adding that he stopped drinking without joining Alcoholics Anonymous or attending 12-step meetings. Before then he had never performed onstage “remotely sober.”

He recalled his terror the first time he performed without a drink at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency.

Before the show the singer Kenny Rankin (who died last year) visited him backstage and asked him how he was feeling.

I said, ‘I feel like I’m jumping off the edge of a cliff,’ ” Mr. Webb remembers replying. “Kenny reached in his pocket and pulled out his one-year medallion and said, ‘I want you to hold this for me.’ ”

“I started working on my singing and playing and on who I was as a person,” Mr. Webb continued. “Now I have this energy and appetite to go out there and rub shoulders with the folks. I’ve learned to crave an audience almost like an addict.”

As Mr. Webb looks back, his life, especially during the past decade, sounds like an extended healing process from damage inflicted by early fame and fortune.

“When you’re in your early 20s, nobody can tell you anything,” he said. “You’re burning through this money, and you think you’re always going to be able to write hit songs, and that the world is always going to be the way you want it to be.”

“There wasn’t a smidgen of teamwork in me,” he continued as he recalled his embattled relationship with his early mentor, the country-pop singer and songwriter Johnny Rivers, to whom he was under contract. “I would go through the motions of cooperation, but in actual fact I wasn’t cooperating with anybody. I was very unkind. Many times since then, I’ve wondered, would I do it the same way? I probably would, because I would be 20 years old and I would be selfish.”

Mr. Webb was a classic example of an artist craving the one thing he didn’t have.

“I really wanted to be a Beatle or a Beach Boy,” he said. But his albums, despite critical support, didn’t sell.

“At some point I realized that although I didn’t have this unilateral popularity and acceptance, I was this marvelously invisible man. Watch me walk through this wall and go into this room, and here I am watching the Beatles record the White Album,” he said. “I was at the Monterey Pop festival in Johnny Rivers’s band. I was living in Laurel Canyon when Joni Mitchell was there. I’m sitting in the back of the Village Vanguard eating a hamburger watching Bill Evans play sets. The person who played me the Who’s ‘Tommy’ for the first time was Terence Stamp.”

He was also friend of Frank Sinatra’s and recalls meeting him once at the Waldorf Astoria, where Sinatra, in a reflective mood, gazed out a window toward Hoboken, N.J., and remarked, “It’s a lot farther from over there to here than it is from here to there.”

“I realized I’ve always had this Zelig quality,” Mr. Webb said. “I would walk through these historical moments, and no one would know I had been there.”

That sense of being an invisible witness to pop history informs “Time Flies” (which isn’t on “Just Across the River”), whose lyrics define Mr. Webb’s mature perspective:

Life begins and spirits rise,

and they become memories that vaporize,

and the vapor becomes the dreams we devise,

and while we are dreaming,

time flies.

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