He was born in New York City, the son of Myron Lawrence Webster and Blanche Pauline Stonehill Webster. He attended the Horace Mann School (Riverdale, Bronx, New York), graduating in 1926, and then went to Cornell University from 1927 to 1928 and New York University from 1928 to 1930, leaving without receiving a degree. He served in the United States Navy and then became a dance instructor at a studio in New York City. By 1931, however, he turned his career direction to writing song lyrics. His first professional lyric was Masquerade (music by John Jacob Loeb) which became a hit in 1932, performed by Paul Whiteman.
In 1935 Twentieth Century Fox signed him to a contract to write lyrics for Shirley Temple's films, but shortly afterward he went back to freelance writing. His first hit was a collaboration in 1941 with Duke Ellington on the song "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)".
After 1950, Webster worked mostly for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He won two Academy Awards in collaboration with Sammy Fain, in 1953 and 1955, and another with Johnny Mandel in 1965. Altogether, sixteen of his songs received Academy Award nominations; among lyricists, he is second only to Johnny Mercer, who was nominated eighteen times, in number of nominations. In addition, a large number of his songs became major hits on the popular music charts.
He is the most successful songwriter of the 1950s on the U.K. charts. In 1967 he was asked to write the famed lyrics for the Spider-Man theme song of the television cartoon. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972.
He died in Beverly Hills, California and is buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California.
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