I just read some sad news. The Great American Entertainer, Glen Campbell, has been placed by his family in an Alzheimer’s Care Facility, after a valiant three year battle with the dreaded destroyer of lives.
On July 25, 2011, I wrote the following Blog as a part of a series of posts titled American Influences. These posts are about people, of all walks of life, who have influenced our country and its culture through extraordinary talent and/or intelligence. Or, they might have just been at the right place at the right time.
This special post is dedicated to the man from Delight, Arkansas.
He was born Glen Travis Campbell on April 22, 1936, on his family’s farm in Billstown, Arkansas. Campbell was one of 12 children, the son of Wesley, a sharecropper, and Carrie Dell,. The impoverished family all worked, picking cotton, when they weren’t picking musical instruments.
When he turned four, his father bought Glen a $5 Sears and Roebuck guitar and within a few years, Campbell was appearing as a paid act and performing guest spots on local radio stations.
At the age of 16, Campbell dropped out of high school and left to seek his fame and fortune out West, where he played with bands in Wyoming’s bars and roadhouses.
In 1961 at the age of 24, Campbell relocated to Los Angeles. Taking a job at the American Music Company, a small publishing house that employed a staff of songwriters, Campbell wrote and recorded the single Turn Around, Look at Me. The record had a little success, but, more importantly, it caught the attention of Capitol Records, who signed him to a contract.
Glen quickly became known as a skilled session guitarist and finger-picker and went on to work as a sideman with artists including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, the Righteous Brothers, and the Monkees. Hot producers Phil Spector and Jimmy Bowen also regularly tapped Campbell for their recordings.
In 1965, after Brian Wilson’s retirement, Campbell was invited to tour with The Beach Boys as a temporary bassist. In 1967, he recorded the song Gentle on My Mind, and his career as a solo artist kicked into high gear. His next single By the time I Get to Phoenix also made the Top 40 and earned a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance. That same year, his song, Gentle, earned the Grammy for Best Country and Western Recording.
Campbell’s career was on fire, as the Country Music Association honored him as the Entertainer of the Year and, in 1968, Campbell released his biggest hits to date: Wichita Lineman and Galveston.
Then, in 1968, Campbell appeared on The Joey Bishop Show. The Smothers Brothers saw the program and liked what they saw so much that they gave him with the opportunity to co-host The Summer Smothers Brothers Show. Campbell’s down-to-earth personality and musical skill impressed CBS executives, and thus was born, in 1969, The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour. The program was a combination of musical acts, comedy segments, and nationally-known guest stars. The show, which was produced by The Smothers Brothers, became a No. 1 hit in the United States and the U.K., making Campbell an international star.
After conquering television, Campbell appeared in movies, playing a memorable role as an ill-fated Texas Ranger opposite John Wayne in 1969’s True Grit. Campbell proved to still have the magic touch in the 70s, as the overwhelming success of two No. 1 singles, Rhinestone Cowboy (1975) and Southern Nights (1977), further cemented Campbell’s status as a crossover success.
Then,in the late 1970s, while dating singer Tanya Tucker, Campbell’s abuse of cocaine and alcohol threatened to destroy his career. The couple’s wild and violent relationship, combined with his poor record sales, kept Campbell on the cover of the gossip magazines.
However, after touring for a few years in the 80s, and breaking up with Tanya, Glen left Los Angeles, successfully overcame his drug habit, and became a born-again Christian.
However, even born-again Christians falter. Campbell was arrested in Phoenix on drunk driving and hit-and-run charges in November 2003. He crashed into another car at an intersection, and left the scene of the accident. He went on to plead guilty to extreme DUI and leaving the scene of an accident, and was sentenced to 10 days in jail.
Campbell released a tell-all autobiography in 1994 by the appropriate title of Rhinestone Cowboy. In 2005, Campbell was rightfully inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. After that, he continued to appear at theaters in Branson, Missouri.In 2008 he released an album of cover songs entitled Meet Glen Campbell.
This week, the following story appeared on people.com:
In his new song, “A Better Place,” Glen Campbell sings, “I need the ones I love Lord/More and more each day.”
The lyric is more personal than the world knows: In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Campbell, 75, and his wife, Kim, reveal that the singer has Alzheimer’s disease.
The couple have decided to go public with Glen’s diagnosis because he’s hoping to say farewell with a final slate of live performances this fall – and they want his fans to be aware of the musician’s condition.
“Glen is still an awesome guitar player and singer,” says Kim. “But if he flubs a lyric or gets confused on stage, I wouldn’t want people to think, ‘What’s the matter with him? Is he drunk?’ ”
The Grammy-winner, whose “Rhinestone Cowboy” topped the charts in 1975, had been suffering from short-term memory loss for years, but the Alzheimer’s diagnosis only came six months ago.
“I still love making music,” says Campbell. “And I still love performing for my fans. I’d like to thank them for sticking with me through thick and thin.”
And Glen, don’t worry. We’ll understand. God bless and Godspeed.